MARQUETTE — One thing that has comeback with a bang is the Marquette Iron Rangers. They’ve been entertaining hockey fans for the past few months and they spoke about what they like so far about this version of the storied franchise.
“On the ice, our strength is we have some good forwards. We can score some goals. The last few games we’ve had some great goaltending. Our defense…we’ve strengthened that up with some new people. And I believe that we can do a great run in the second half of the season,” owner Robert Airaudi said.
“We’re the workhorse. You got that one guy that goes to work and puts pedal to the metal all the time and works hard. It’s not the cleanest or prettiest, but it’s absolutely nitty gritty work. We got a good handful of those guys and we’re starting to get the confidence behind it now and that’s going to bloom into a really good thing,” defenseman Hayden Rajala said.
The team has played a road–heavy first half schedule so more home games are on the way to close out the season. And the team is optimistic for a strong finish.
“We have great leadership now settled both in and out of the locker room. The players believe that we’re in every game and we can win and we are going to try our hardest to do so,” said Airaudi.
“We’re getting better and better every week and we’re not struggling to get wins like we were at the beginning of the season. We got some guys that can play and I think as long as we show up every day, we’re going to have a good 7th man in the stands and it will be nice,” said Rajala.
The Marquette Iron Rangers are your typical U.P. hockey team on the ice. They love to hit hard and they love to light the lamp. However, there was a broader plan in place when the team decided to return to Lakeview Arena.
“My main focus and our main focus for this organization is to bring hockey back to Mecca it was. We want Marquette to be known as the hockey Mecca of the Midwest. We support all the local teams, from high school all the way on down and to Northern,” Airaudi said.
“We’re actually get some pretty good fan support. I think a lot of the community is still isn’t sure or doesn’t know about us. But we’re getting more and more people to come every single week. As long as we can continue to play good hockey and improve and give fans something to come and watch, I think it will be good,” said Rajala.
The Iron Rangers do a lot of work with local organizations, including warming shelters and UPAWS, in hopes that they fill the seats and keep them filled for as long as the team is around.
“I think that if we can be able to perform on the ice to an entertaining level and the fact that we get to help a little bit outside the community and try to connect and get people involved in such a manner that people like that, even if they’re not hockey fans, but they see that a group of guys like us, when we’re bruising and cruising on the ice, is willing to help out a little bit in the community, I think it’s going to get some different eyes to come and see us,” said Rajala.
“Giving back to others gives me personally a great feeling and the people that are in this community have such big hearts that warms from the inside out and it just shows what a great community we have,” Airaudi said.
The Iron Rangers will be back on the ice on Saturday in Houghton as they take on the Portage Lake Pioneers.