Mashinter gives Rangers major boost

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

The defending Ontario Hockey League champs won't go down without a fight.

Unbelievably, it's a grizzled tough guy -- six-foot-four, 235-pound battleship Brandon Mashinter -- leading the offensive charge for the surprising Kitchener Rangers.

The 20-year-old from Bradford is a former fourth-liner known more for hard punches than soft hands.

In four previous seasons, his career high was 10 goals and 20 points.

After a month, the over-ager has a team-leading nine goals and 15 points. He's eighth in the league scoring race.

No one expected Kitchener to be relevant after losing head coach Peter BeBoer and six top forwards to the pros. But the Rangers are still winning and Mashinter's a major reason.

"There's a lot of pride still in this room, a lot of leaders," he said. "I was told in the summer by (new GM and head coach) Steve Spott I would be counted on to play more minutes. I worked on my skating a lot. I had a tryout with Columbus this year and when I went to Traverse City (Mich.,) for the NHL rookie tournament, I saw what it takes to move up.

"I wanted to make the most of this chance."

He has only dropped the gloves once -- in the first game of the season. But he knows all about Don Cherry's old warning: "Crushers who become rushers soon become ushers."

"I've always been a role player and I still am," he said. "I'm an energy guy. My job is to hit, go to the net, create space, play the tough guy role and defend my teammates. If I keep scoring, great."

It's hard to change perceptions. Most people he talks hockey with want to hear fight tales, not his recent hot streak.

"It's what I've been known for in the league," he said. "A few have asked about the offence. It's fun. It's been a good start."

Big, tough guys are disappearing from today's hockey.

But if they can keep up and score, there will always be room for a few more.

OHL notebook

Look for the Guelph Storm to develop into one of the best power-skating teams in the league. Their skating coach is former figure skating great and pairs champ Barb Underhill, whose husband Rick Gaetz owns a stake in the club . . . Quick-acting Mississauga medical staff is credited with saving the life of promising Majors rookie forward William Wallen. The Swede complained of a severe headache and a prompt 911 call, ambulance ride and hospital visit later, he was being operated on for a brain aneurysm . . . Speaking of life-savers, defibrillators are mandatory in OHL rinks, a point commissioner David Branch reinforced after young Russian star Alexei Cherepanov died of heart complications last week. Still, London athletic therapist Andy Scott also brings one with him on the bus when the Knights travel. Emergencies of that nature don't always happen right at the rink . . . The league slapped Owen Sound's leading scorer Garrett Wilson with 15 games for a controversial slew-foot that busted Kitchener defenceman Dan Kelly's ankle. The furor shouldn't be over the suspension length because any time someone's foot ends up behind the player he's hitting, it becomes a potentially dangerous situation. It should be about the league leaving Wilson twisting in the wind for a week before releasing its decision to the public . . . Stan Butler, the only coach the Brampton Battalion has known, just won his 400th game . . . Maybe Ottawa coach Brian Kilrea is calling it quits a year too soon. Four of his six top scorers are 18 or under. And is this the season Logan Couture finally breaks out offensively and becomes more than a point-per-game guy? Mike Peca, employed by Ottawa 15 years ago to the same tune Kilrea now uses Couture, had 102 points in 55 games in his 67's finale .


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