|Rangers don't need overtime
in this game to defeat the Spirit
With much fanfare Steve Eminger made his 2002-2003 debut with the Rangers. Not even Steve himself, who last season was named to the second CHL All-Star team could have imagined the route that he would take to Kitchener. During fan appreciation day he was at the Aud signing autographs and informing the odd Ranger fan who happened to also be a Capitals fan, how to number their Washington Capitals jerseys with the #44, teammates like Derek Roy were already absent at the pro camps. Eminger would soon be on the way to Washington, however unlike his counterparts he would not be returned for quite some time. Infact enough time for the Capitals to sign him and for Eminger to blow through his 10 game try out. Eminger finished his stay with the Capitals recording 2 assists (in Toronto and in Atlanta), in 17 games in the NHL.
It was refreshing for many of Rangers fans on Tuesday night to see a familiar face pop-up on the new Memorial Auditorium video board, being seen on an NHL-style video board is one of the few adjustments that Steve Eminger will not have to make in returning to the Rangers. Otherwise he's moved from team chartered flight to team bus and doesn't look worse for wear thus far in the adjustment, visiting the cozy confinds of the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community center in Owen Sound Saturday ngiht should prove to be an acid test. Eminger wasn't completely aclimatized quite yet on this night at least once he had to be reminded of how DeBoer has the team line up for the facoff on neutral ice, for those whom haven't noticed the winger closest to center ice switches positions with the defenseman behind them.
Aside from Eminger's return where he recorded two powerplay assists, there was other excitement at the Aud in Kitchener. Though it was the Saginaw Spirit in town, whom are currently alone in the basement of the entire OHL (the Ice Dogs will not draft 1st this season for the first time in 5 years in 2003!) somewhat resemble an expansion team in their first season in Saginaw. The Spirit have unloaded stars such as Colt King, Kitchener's George Halkidis, and just recently Chris Thorburn who went to the Plymouth Whalers at a very high price, they intend to build a contender in Saginaw through a massive rebuilding project. The Spirit have frustrated the Rangers this season. In the two team's first meeting the Rangers fired 59 shots at netminder: Tyson Kellerman, only rewarded three times for their efforts, and after letting a 3-1 lead escape them in the third period, and had to settle for a 3-3 tie. In Saginaw DiRienzo and the Rangers appeared to have more bad news on the way down in manpower and also down in the game extremely early by a score of 2-0, the Rangers rebounded and won 5-4 in overtime. This time overtime would not be required as a recharged and rejuvinated Rangers team took to the ice and simply dominated the Spirit in a 5-1 victory.
As he did in the Sunday afternoon game against the Storm, Carlo DiRienzo had a very strong effort albeit against an inferior opponent and managed to upstage Steve Eminger for first star honors, Eminger was named the game's second star. After tumbling in the OHL goalies race DiRienzo (2.51) is back up to 2nd in league GAA, just behind Plymouth's Paul Drew (2.48).
With the Rangers dominating late in the first period the game started to get chippy, it didn't take long for it to get just plain ugly. Adam Chapman two-handed Andre Benoit over the head and Peter Kanko was quick to come to his teammate's help. Kanko who just fought one week ago at the Aud showed that much like fellow countrymen: Vratislav Cech and Michal Dvorak who were in Kitchener that Czech's don't fight much but when you get them angry - look out. Because of incuring an instigating minor to go along with his fighting major Kanko was lost for most of the second period. Smola was quick to give Chapman a game misconduct, with his 5 minute match-penalty for high-sticking which will be reviewed by the league.
David Clarkson had one of his most flashy efforts as a Ranger. Though he was only able to get his name on the scoresheet once the rugged winger seemed to have the answer to each of the Spirit's defense schemes, several times he danced in close virtually unharassed. Clarkson's powerplay goal gave the Rangers 2 powerplay markers on two opportunties. With Steve Eminger back on the Rangers right point, fans can expcect a powerplay which is behind the pace of last season's team to pick up quickly. Lost in all of the excitement was Jesse Boucher's first OHL goal which gave the Rangers a commanding 4-1 lead in the second. With the puck free at the top of the crease and netminder: Kellerman out of the play, Boucher dove and knocked the puck over the goal line. In our article about the Rangers game we mentioned the lack of some Derek Roy magic. This 'magic' showed up in the third as Derek Roy thrilled the near capacity crowd of 5937, many of whom arrived late. Roy's goal, a marvel of stickhandling started at one end of the crease and somehow with little room to manouver ended at the far side of the net with a helpless Kellerman looking perplexed and the puck at the back of the net.
Adam Keefe played in his first game since playing
briefly in the Rangers' 4-2 loss in Plymouth on December 30th. Because
of the numbers game, Chad McCaffery was a healthy scratch from the Rangers'
lineup. Evan McGrath had two assists for the Rangers.