|Battered Rangers pull out all
the stops in gutsy winning effort
Sometimes a little role reversal doesn't hurt. In November the Rangers were the team with the edge, they were dominant on top of their game, and they bombarded Spirit netminder: Tyson Kellerman with nearly 60 shots, but the Spirit prevailed and tied the game. The Rangers entered the game, battered bruised and shorthanded. Harrison, McCaffery, Keefe, Roy and Campbell didn't play, by the end of the game the Rangers' were even more shorthanded. Matt Grennier left with an injury, and T.J. Eason was just simply incapable of finishing the game. The Rangers limped into town and much like the Rangers did in Kitchener, they jumped all over the Rangers, Jean-Michel Rizk scored less than one minute into the game. MacDonell gave Rizk a feed where he was essentially all alone and prone to deke Carlo DiRienzo, whom was forced to commit, and Rizk made little mistake in burried the puck into the back of the net. Only a minute-thirty later Yachmenev beat DiRienzo and suddenly it appeared for the first time in 21 games (the Spirit only having won one of those games) that a romp was on. Veteran coach Peter DeBoer quickly used his timeout to calm down the team. A war between big Bill Kinkel and former Ice Dog Adam Sturgeon gave the Rangers some momentum. Kinkel would later battle with Saginaw captian and top scorer: Chris Thorburn, the battle would last over one full minute and feature many huge punches in the second period.
As the Rangers have done more often than not this season, found a way to battle back. O'Nabigon brought the team back to within one goal at the end of the first period, and then scored early in the second period on the powerplay. Nathan O'Nabigon, who was just coming off of a player of the week performance managed to complete the hattrick in the third period giving the Rangers their first lead of the game, on his second hattrick of the season. Aside from steady play in the defensive side of the ice Nathan kept it simple infront of the Spirit net. The 3,812 in attendance weren't overly interested in their team going quietly into the new year though, the Saginaw fans showed their Spirit and were very loud prominant in encouraging their team and their captain Chris Thorburn tied the game, the goal was his 3rd point of the game, a very strong game where he was named 2nd star behind the Rangers' O'Nabigon. When Thorburn scored their was a delayed penalty to the Rangers' T.J. Eason who just simply ran out of gas. Trapped on the ice after a long shift and sick as many of the Rangers were with the flu Eason was reduced to an interfering pylon. Matt Manias who was forced to pick up the slack, did a very admirable job, as did the remainder of the Rangers who finished the game.
After Thorburn's game tying goal the Rangers pressed for the win in regulation. Both of the Rangers two lines (which by the end of the game they had been reduced to) centered by the only two centermen they had left: Richards and McGrath had close calls. Martynowski, Clarkson and McGrath all had their chances on rebounds. The Rangers play was so strong late that it even prompted Saginaw coach: Dennis Desroiers to call a timeout with one minute remaining in regulation and the faceoff taking place in the Spirit zone. In overtime the Rangers simply dominated, DeBoer short on defenders and with nothing to lose elected to use 3 forwards and only one defender often times. With the Rangers cycling, rotating and the Spirit running around in their own zone, Benoit got the puck with some time to spare, one of his increasingly more deadly wristshots found its way into the top corner of the net and the Rangers had their third overtime victory of the season. DiRienzo who had a very shakey start not only remained in the game to claim the victory but also bit the overtime bug which caught up to him in Barrie where the Rangers lost 4-3 in the extra frame early in the season. DiRienzo was the only Rangers goalie without an overtime victory, Harpwood and Dickie previously winning in Belleville and against the Owen Sound Attack respectively. The Rangers and Spirit have only meet twice this season and both games ended in overtime the previous meeting (Nov 15th) was a 3-3 tie in Kitchener. All 4 games played on New Year's Eve went into overtime in the OHL.
Denis Yachmenev (whose brother formerly stared
for the Centennials in North Bay) scored a pair of goals for the Spirit.
Saginaw Mayor: Wilmer Jones-Ham elected to sing the US national anthem.
Andre Benoit's goal gave him a share of the league's defenseman scoring
lead at 41 points with Kingston's Bryan Rodney. Nathan O'Nabigon
for the second time this season recorded 4 points in one game. The
Rangers now 6-3 since losing star forwards: Derek Roy and Gregory Campbell
to the World Junior team and are now guaranteed to finish above .500 in
the stretch without the star Canadians. With his three-point effort
17 year-old Michael Richards took a share of the team's scoring lead with
Derek Roy at 50 points. The Saginaw Spirit did attempt to have some
Rangers trivia fun but unfortunately their multiple choice question had
two correct answers.
Exceptional game night photography
done by: Duct Tape.