Rangers face player turnover

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

KITCHENER -- The Kitchener Rangers were built to win the 2008 Memorial Cup and fell one game short.

Now, the exodus begins.

GM and head coach Peter DeBoer, currently the hot prospect to land an NHL gig, may have spent his last game behind the Kitchener bench.

He wouldn't tip his hand either way.

Undrafted Canadian Hockey League top player Justin Azevedo, a 20-year-old West Lorne native, has surely proven all he can at the junior level and injured ex-Knights goalie Steve Mason, who never made it into a Cup contest, will be in the Columbus Blue Jackets' plans this fall.

Rangers forward Nazem Kadri will now head to his hometown London Knights as the final piece in a Mason trade that didn't pan out the way Kitchener had hoped.

"I've built a bond with some of the guys in this dressing room and I'm going to miss them," said Kadri, a 17-year-old standout centre, "but that's the way hockey works. It was a tough loss and we threw everything, but the kitchen sink at them (with 54 shots in the final). Give Spokane credit. They beat us twice."

Kitchener captain Matt Pepe's biggest dream was to leave the Rangers just the way he found them -- as Memorial Cup champions. But the 21-year-old Dorchester native, who arrived right after Kitchener won the 2003 Cup in Quebec City, fell a game short.

Matt Halischuk and Nick Spaling are likely pro-bound and there's a chance speedy Danish winger Mikkel Boedker, a sure-fire top-10 pick in next month's NHL draft, could stick in the big leagues.

"We're going to take a couple of days here to get over this," Halischuk said, "and then we'll go from there."

The Rangers were the only team in the Canadian Hockey League to know they would be playing in late May as Cup hosts. The Spokane Chiefs were 20 minutes from having their season end in the WHL's Western Conference final before rallying to beat the rival Tri-City Americans.

They never lost again.

"We came into this tournament knowing that all these guys in the OHL and the Quebec league had a ton of points and were capable of scoring a lot of goals," Chiefs defenceman Trevor Glass said. "Look at the guy from Gatineau (Claude Giroux) -- he had something like 50 points in the playoffs. But we knew we had the kind of team that could play solid defence and that's what we did.

"Kitchener had a very good team and they gave it everything they had and never quit right to the end in front of their home crowd. I tip my hat to them -- they had a tremendous effort, but we were able to come through with the win."


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