|8-game sweep of Otters could
flush Erie from postseason contention
The Erie Otters over the last two seasons have ravaged the Rangers, posting a 13-3 record against the boys in blue, infact a 1-7-0 season in 2000-'01 may have as much to blame for the Rangers' failure to make the postseason as anything else. This year the tables have turned and the Rangers are the ones giving the Otters a glimmer of hope and then snatching it away bombarding the Otters with a tough reality, and their veteran netminders with pucks. This time it appeared as if the Otters were destined to defeat the Rangers, after all how can a team allow itself to be beaten 8 times in one season, or nine in a row to the same team, or could they? The Ice Dogs on Friday night proved that 10 consecutive defeats to one franchise, spanning 5 seasons were capable. The real story of the game, might be the resurgence of netminder: Carlo DiRienzo who was in another time zone at the beginning of the day. After arriving back in Kitchener with teammate: Evan McGrath with bronze medals in the Under-17 DiRienzo made the best of a very bad situation. Scott Dickie whom has been perfect in the 3 games in which he has filled in for DiRienzo was pulled midway through the first period. DiRienzo joined a bad situation in progress and probably would have been named one of the game's three stars if his teammates hadn't played so well while trailing 3-0.
DiRienzo wasn't overly busy but he did make the most of his opportunities to impress the 5155 in attendance, man of whom gave him a hearty cheer upon entering the game down 3-0. Much like Dickie has all season, DiRienzo picked up his teammates and made a huge stop in overtime, as well as a nice stop to prevent Mike Rice from picking up a hattrick along with a 4-0 lead for the Otters. Scott Dickie didn't have his strongest game and by the end of the first period, Mike Rice had scored twice on him, and once on the night prior. A shorthanded goal by Alex Karaulchuk, a slapshot which barely found the top corner prematurely ended Dickie's night. The Rangers weren't down 3-0 through lack of effort, at times intensity or smart play might have been a factor but in the end the difference was a hot netminder T.J. Aceti (who was named 3rd star), who stopped 23 of 23 shots on goal in the first period. He was fast and at times a little lucky, most importantly he covered the bottom half of the net well forcing the Rangers to launch and aerial attack.
The Rangers put 23 shots on goal in the first period and seemed to be determined to break the shutout in the third period at least that's what most of the 5155 in attendance expected the goal to be. Benoit got the ball rolling with a seeing eye point shot, his defenseman league-leading 20th goal of the season. The large Sunday crowd started to get into the game, and after a foolish after the whistle roughing call on Alex Karaulchuk who scored the third Otter goal of the game, put momentum on the side of the Rangers. Gregory Campbell deflected a point past Aceti and suddenly the Rangers were threatening to take control of the game. Peter Kanko then slipped the puck just barely under Aceti with just under 2 minutes left on the clock and netminder: Carlo DiRienzo still occupying a spot between the posts for the Rangers. Suddenly the Rangers' faithful were in a frenzy, and the patient Rangers had finally erased two and a half periods of misfortune around the Otters' net and were part of an all new game. In overtime the Otters attempted to right the wrong, but were thwarted by 16-year old rookie: Carlo DiRienzo. When the Rangers turned up ice, they were on an odd-man rush, the broken play resulted in the puck ending up on Michael Richards' stick, he made no mistake in burrying the puck. For Richards' it was the third consecutive night that he scored. The frustrated Otters left the ice dejected and frustrated, if by any chance the Otters happen to fight their way into the postseason, they are more than familiar with the red, white and blue team that may be awaiting them up top of the standings.
The Rangers win over the Otters was their 9th in a row, during the
8 games versus the Otters this season the Rangers have put 51 shots past
three Otters netminders: Munro, Aceti and Marion. The game marked
the return of McGrath and DiRienzo to the Rangers' lineup, although McGrath
did not get his name on the scoresheet, he did look impressive while on
the powerplay. The Rangers powerplay went 1 for 7, while the Otters
were 0 for 7. Andre Benoit, an easy choice for first star was in
on all four Rangers goals (1-3) for his first ever four point night.
His 20th goal represented his first visit to the 20-goal plateau during
his three year OHL career.
Exceptional game night photography
done by: Duct Tape.