Man on a mission
Brendan Ranford made a mockery of many a goaltender last season, but it was he who turned out to be the joker in the end.
The 19-year-old forward from Edmonton had racked up 28 goals and 58 points by the time St. Nick made his December rounds.
When January began, Ranford was dead even on points with Medicine Hat forward Linden Vey, who went on to win the Western Hockey League scoring title with 116 points.
Then, things went horribly wrong.
“My conditioning wasn’t totally there after the Christmas beak,” Ranford told KTW as he prepared for his first regular-season game tomorrow (Oct. 7) at home against Spokane.
“I wasn’t in good shape and I needed to be to play the minutes I was playing.”
Too much of grandma’s famous holiday gravy?
Perhaps, but there is more.
“I felt maybe a little bit overconfident,” the 5-foot-10, 189-pound left winger said.
“At the start of the season, I was working hard and, when I got to the midway part, I thought it was going to come easy.”
Ranford finished the season with 86 points, scoring only five goals in January, February and March combined. He was minus-18 during the same time period.
The sharpshooter with a toothless grin was doing anything but smiling when he hit rock bottom in March, his team fighting for a playoff spot with four games to play.
Ranford cross-checked linesman Kris Hartley across the chest during a home tilt against Kelowna on March 11.
He was suspended six games.
“I hurt my team and it was a selfish play,” Ranford said.
“It wasn’t the right thing to do and I’ve learned from that over the summer.”
Kamloops, with its top scorer out of the lineup, stumbled across the finish line and missed the playoffs for the second time in franchise history.
To make matters worse, Ranford’s play in the second half of the season might have scared the Philadelphia Flyers away from signing their seventh-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
“I feel that, if I would’ve kept up and stayed more consistent, I would’ve signed a contract with Philadelphia,” Ranford said.
“That’s my fault and I take full responsibility for not doing that.”
Kamloops’ 8-2 home victory over Victoria on Sunday, Oct. 2, marked the last game of Ranford’s suspension.
It also signalled a new beginning for the budding hockey star, who cannot wait to return to the lineup when the puck drops at 7 p.m. in Interior Savings Centre tomorrow night.
“This is a whole new year,” Ranford said.
“It’s a fresh start for me with everything.”
One look at Ranford on a bike inside the Blazers’ training facility is telling: He is in very good shape.
He spent the summer with his grandparents in Red Deer, where calorie-burning cycling excursions and lengthy runs were the norm and gravy was nowhere to be found.
The pitfalls and bad decisions of last season are now in Ranford’s rear-view mirror — and there’s nothing but open road ahead.
It seems the only thing that can stop him is a U-turn halfway through this season.
“I’ve got to learn from last season and move on,” he said.
“I’ve served all my games and I’m just ready to play hockey.”