‘Full loop’ — New Wolves keeper has strong Sudbury ties

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When Joe Ranger walked through the doors of the Sudbury Community Arena, I felt like coming home.

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Although he hails from the Ottawa-area Carp, Ont., the Sudbury Wolves’ newest goaltender has ties to the town of Nickel through his family, including members of the Clan St Marseille who have left their mark on the game of hockey, and he spends part of each off-season at a camp near Espanola.

Those ties were further strengthened Thursday morning, when Wolves general manager Rob Papineau announced the acquisition of Ranger from the Mississauga Steelheads, in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2023 OHL Priority Draft. .

“It was really hard not to tell my whole family straight away,” the 20-year-old keeper said, shortly after being introduced to home fans via a live stream from the Wolves dressing room. “My family in Sudbury have had season tickets since I was little and I remember coming over when I was young and watching Wolves play in the winter and it’s so cool to come full circle. I’m super excited.

Ranger’s mother is from the city and his uncles and grandparents still live in the community as well.

“They will be really happy to be able to cheer on Wolves again,” he said with a laugh.

Ranger was one of the OHL’s statistical leaders in goals in 2021-22, finishing second in the league in goals-against average, with a 2.54 rating, and third in save percentage , at .911, in 29 regular season games. The 6-foot-1, 196-pound player appeared in three playoff games, all against the eventual champion Hamilton Bulldogs, averaging 2.69 goals against while posting a .922 save percentage.

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Joe Ranger in action with the Mississauga Steelheads.
Joe Ranger in action with the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Terry Wilson/OHL Images

“In the room, I like to think of myself as a leader,” Ranger said. “That’s always been my mantra and one of my goals, to be a leader in the room. On the ice, I like to think of myself as a good skater, so I like to be at the top of my fold, be aggressive, make those big saves whenever the team needs me Some nights can be quiet some nights can be busy but that’s just the backbone no matter what situation the team is in .

He’s happy to lend those skills to Sudbury, which he believes is a growing team.

“They brought it to us last season, especially in the second half,” Ranger recalled. “It’s definitely a young team with a lot of talent and I’m trying to come in and be a leader in the team. I like to think I’ve been through a lot and hopefully I can share stories and life lessons that I can pass on to younger people and be a good teammate.

Ranger knows some of the current Wolves, including point guard David Goyette, who lives in Hawkesbury, as well as new first round Nathan Villeneuve, who also resides in the Ottawa area. The veteran puck blocker is eager to mentor them and their teammates.

“Every game is a new game,” Ranger said. “You certainly can’t take anything for granted and there will always be new battles, new challenges and you have to go out every day with a good attitude, especially in training. It’s a long season, but it jumps out at you. eyes fast enough, you need to take care of your body, take care of the mental side of your game, and just be ready to play every day.

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He plans to wear number 29 for the Wolves, having worn that number as a youngster in imitation of NHL player Marc-André Fleury.

With goaltender Mitchell Weeks losing his graduation, Papineau made it a priority this offseason to add a veteran presence in net and was thrilled as soon as the league trade window closed. open for a few hours Thursday, to present its new acquisition.

He had his eye on Ranger in 2017-18, when he played for Carleton Place in Hockey Eastern Ontario’s AAA U18 loop, and hoped to land him in the subsequent OHL Draft, but instead saw the Steelheads the catch on lap four, 63rd overall.

“Sometimes it happens in a draft where you like a player, you’ve ranked him well, but someone just picks him in the area you were thinking of,” Papineau said. “Then you have to wait for your moment, and that kind of happened this year.

“He took a big step. He played a good chunk of games, almost 30, and he was .911 in those games. His three playoff games were all against Hamilton and we saw what Hamilton did to the rest of the league in their series, averaging five and six goals per game, and he had a 2.69 and a .922.

“He competes, he fights and he’s a guy who wants to win, wants to be here and he’s got a super positive attitude, he’s going to be a great leader in our dressing room so we’re really excited to be able to add him here. today.

These qualities have allowed Ranger to stand out, according to Papineau, among a group of several overage goaltenders potentially available this summer.

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“We always want to add character people here,” Papineau said. “Mitchell Weeks was a great example of that last year and Joe emulates a lot of those characteristics that Mitchell had. But really, it was his game, his performance. We’ve played him four times this year and he beat us in three of those games and his save percentage was over .915 He was a tough guy to beat, he fought on every puck and looking at those goals, very few if any beat him cleanly.

Joe Ranger wearing the Sudbury Wolves colors as a youth.
Joe Ranger wearing the Sudbury Wolves colors as a youth. Photo by Fourni

Now by far Wolves’ most experienced goaltender in the OHL, Ranger will likely get a big share of starts this season, but Papineau said there’s a great opportunity for a young goaltender to gain playing time while learning from the newly acquired veteran.

“Nothing is ever given to a goaltender and Joe learned that growing up in our league,” the Sudbury general manager said. “You have to come in and you have to train hard every day, earn your starts and win the net. It’s part of wanting to be a goalkeeper at this level and especially beyond. We just want our guys to work hard this summer and someone to come out and grab that other spot. It’s a developmental league and when you look at a lot of guys who have had success this year, a lot of them really got going at 18, 19. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Papineau and his staff will devote their attention Friday to the CHL Import Draft, which will be held online beginning at 11 a.m. Sudbury holds the eighth and 68th draft picks in two rounds.

bleeson@postmedia.com

Twitter: @ben_leeson

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