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SPOTLIGHT: Small stature and big heart makes Garreffa a fan favourite
Dan Hamilton, Kitchener Rangers

 

Everybody likes an underdog story. To feel like they can relate to someone who has faced some sort of adversity or struggle, but can still achieve their goals, and in turn, inspire others.

Mighty Mouse was a cartoon character which debuted in the 1940’s, depicting an undersized – you guessed it – mouse, which was endowed with super strength which allowed him to accomplish whatever it was that he set out to do.

You may have seen signs throughout the Aud, or online on Rangers’ social media pages, as fans have found their own version of Mighty Mouse; Rangers forward Joseph Garreffa.

The term ‘forward’ could be used loosely though, as a plethora of injuries to the Rangers defensive corps last season saw the 16-year-old rookie – drafted as a centre from the Toronto Titans – take on an extended tenure on the back end.

Although Garreffa had experience on the blueline from previous seasons in minor hockey, being called upon to defend at the OHL level as a 16-year-old was an entirely different kettle of fish. Yet, he took on the task like he did any other challenge strewn his way, and he answered the call to the best of his ability; which turned out to be pretty darned well.

The competition in major junior is no doubt more of a challenge, as most nights you’re oftentimes competing against players three and four years older, especially as a rookie.

As if that weren’t enough, another hurdle presented itself to Garreffa – and it was one he had no control over.

Coming in as one of, if not, the smallest players in the league at 5’6”, he continued to be challenged by facing players up to a foot taller than he is. But this is where the Mighty Mouse comparisons draw in.

He’s not afraid of the challenge; in fact, he welcomed it in his rookie season, and seems to relish in it in his sophomore campaign. He’s one of those guys that just seems dead-set in accomplishing whatever he’s set out to do.

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He was presented with the task of needing to step in on the back end earlier this season yet again after injuries once again rattled the Rangers roster. But one thing head coach Jay McKee continues to make clear is that whenever Garreffa is called upon to man the back-end, Garreffa has overwhelming confidence not only from the coaching staff, but from his teammates as well.

Versatility and speed are two qualities that ‘Mighty Mouse’ Garreffa has in bunches. It makes him reliable on the blueline, but also makes it nearly impossible for the shifty forward to be caught as he weaves his way through the neutral zone and offensive end around mystified opponents.

He’s has been able to stay up front for the Blueshirts for the majority of this season – luckily, to the benefit of the coaching staff and fans, alike – and has earned his way to loging big-time minutes with some top-line teammates.

As a 16-year-old last season, he registered 13 points in 41 regular season games. As a 17-year-old sophomore, he almost doubled his point production – seven goals and 23 points – in only his first 30 games, which had him fifth in team scoring.

After 60 games played with eight games remaining in the regular season he is producing at almost a point-per-game pace, registering new career highs in goals (23) and points (55).

Not one to let size be a deterrent, he uses it to his advantage. His strong skating, of course, allows him to get open in areas that others wouldn’t have the chance. It also allows him to work well with other highly skilled and effective playmakers to help the Rangers register goals, wins, and points.

Any coach, parent or player will tell you, if you want to be successful at something, you need to, “Practice, Practice, Practice”.

Joseph Garreffa practices his skating, sure. And he practices his shot. But he doesn’t stand in the mirror at night and will himself to grow – he knows that’s the one element of his game that’s out of his control.

So instead, he runs the treadmill, rides the bike, lifts weights, and works on things he can actually change.

One thing Rangers Nation hopes for is that he continues to be the player with giant skill, a big heart, and a gigantic sense of humor that makes it so easy to root for this underdog.

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