A year after the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers finished in the basement of the Midwest Division and missed the playoffs with a 26-37-3-2 record (57 points), the club is nearly a lock for the postseason and is challenging for the division title.
A big reason behind the Rangers’ resurgence is Avalanche prospect Brandon Maxwell, whose goaltending prowess has already helped Kitchener exceed its point total from a season ago.
|Maxwell's play has been one of the keys to Kitchener's resurgence in 2009-10 |
The Rangers are currently tied with the London Knights for first place in the Midwest Division and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference with 59 points (28-11-1-2) through 42 contests. Maxwell, for his part, has been enjoying his time in the OHL.
After spending two seasons with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., the netminder chose to continue his career in a familiar venue. Born in Winter Park, Fla., Maxwell spent his formative years in Kitchener.
“I grew up here and I’ve always wanted to play for them,” said Maxwell. “It’s pretty cool. I have a lot of family at my games, which I haven’t had the last couple of years. I used to be a fan of this team growing up and now I’m the goalie here.”
Selected by the Avalanche in the sixth round (154th overall) at the 2009 Entry Draft, Maxwell gained some valuable experience during his time with USA Hockey. Often playing against college-aged opponents as a 17-year-old, and with the majority of those games taking place on the road, the goaltender learned how to deal with hostile crowds.
And that’s before you factor in his international experience. The 6-foot, 195-pound netminder helped Team USA claim the gold medal at the 2008 Four Nations Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y., and also led the Americans to a bronze medal at the 2008 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Kazan, Russia.
“The last couple of years I’ve played a lot of away games,” said Maxwell. “It’s tough to play on the road in the OHL, so I think that experience of everybody against you, no matter where we went, has helped me.”
Now, Maxwell is taking those experiences and channeling them during his first year in the OHL. With a 14-8-0-2 record, he is tied for 10th in the league in victories while also posting a .906 save percentage. The latter number is particularly impressive when you consider he has faced an average of 37.2 shots per game this season.
No matter how the rest of the season turns out, the 2009-10 season has to be considered a victory for Maxwell, from both a personal and developmental standpoint. He has earned a good amount of playing time as a rookie in a tough league, and has proven that he belongs.
But when it comes to his play in between the pipes, the 18-year-old remains focused on keeping things simple.
“I just want to get a lot of wins. We have a pretty good team this year, so I’m really excited about that. I just try to go out there and play my game.”