Three Stars of the Game
Inspiration: After each National Hockey League game — the local media votes for the ‘Three Stars of the Game’ — basically the Man of the Match — but as a treble! So in that spirt – here are Rangers Three Stars of the Game.
First Star: Ian Black – is playing with a confidence that shows that he is ready to start the season now. Black was coming off a strong 45 minutes in Sacramento (in which he shut down the star of the 1st half -Gilberto – & then scored the winning goal) & within the first ten minutes had the primary assist on the opening goal from Calum Gallagher. Black seemed to be spurred by the opener & was the best player on the pitch Monday night as he controlled the midfield & was passing with a purpose. His presence was felt from beginning to end, from the offensive end of the pitch to the defensive. A solid 90 minutes, even more impressive given Nicky Law was not in the lineup.
Second Star: Calum Gallagher – was the most prominent player in the opening half for Rangers. He showed a real nose for the net as he stubbed in the opener off of Ian Black’s pass. Gallagher’s forward position on the play was encouraging given that he started the play from the midfield – but kept his run all of the way to the goal mouth. Additionally, it was his shot that handcuffed the goalie on Nicky Clark’s sprawling goal. Gallagher really plays with a purpose & constantly pounced on the ball as he looked to flip the play on the offensive. A natural forward, he still will have to work on his defensive game if he plays a midfield role this season – but with Kris Boyd & Kenny Miller now on the team it may be his best chance at playing time.
Third Star: Nicky Clark – was really buzzing for the hour he was on the pitch. We got a little tease of what a partnership of Clark & Gallagher could have been last year as the two showed no hesitation to lash out at the opposing goal. Besides his sprawling goal, he nearly snagged the opener & also should have had an assist on a shot that Gallagher managed to fire straight on the Victoria goalkeeper. On top of that, he managed to have a couple of headers get on target. Clark’s stock with Rangers has dipped of late but this was a positive reminder of why fans were excited by his signing last season.
Robbie Crawford looked uncomfortable in his original role as a left midfielder, but then an injury to Sebastien Faure forced Crawford into a right back role. Playing in a defensive position, Crawford actually looked more comfortable as he was able to use his fitness & his pace to make up ground on defence. Crawford held his own against bigger forwards & showed a real potential to play the position – it was almost reminiscent of DaMarcus Beasley’s transition to left back for the United States. He did look a little out of his element towards the end of the game, but all-in-all it was an eye-opening performance…Barrie McKay came on in the second half & instantly brought his trademark flair to the match. His ball-handling & crisp crosses nearly created a few opportunities to score as his bright play was a reminder of how a talented player like McKay can literally flip the tone & momentum of a match. He had a couple of lackadaisical moments that still linger in his game as he needs to maintain his aggressive play each & every time he is on the ball – especially given his likely role this season as a ‘super sub.’
Dean Shiels was slotted as a forward along with Nicky Clark – but if you had the chance to watch you would have mostly forgotten he was on the pitch as Calum Gallagher was able to consistently pressure the defence from a midfield role. Shiels’ effort was evident, but it was mostly for nought given that Clark & Gallagher were at the end of most of the chances on goal…Darren McGregor followed up his strong match in Sacramento with a real stinker in Canada. He was literally manhandled on the Highlanders goal & was guilty of turnovers & misreading plays on too many occasions. After his proactive defensive play on Saturday, he was more passive in defending on Monday & usually refrained from closing down on the forwards. He did show his pace at times & one match should not ruin his chances of being the starter in August.