|Scene set for 7th game showdown
The LA Kings scouts have to have ear to ear smiles on their faces if they were in attendance watching their coveted pick: Peter Kanko put three pucks past netminder: Paul Drew during the elimination sixth game on Saturday night in Plymouth. The Whalers struck early in the first period getting the sellout crowd of 4057 into the game only 6:26 into the game. Former Ranger, Ryan Ramsay who like Jimmy Gagnon has been a thorn in the side of the Rangers since the series started gave the Whalers the early lead. Ramsay's goal came on a dipsy-doddle play during a Rangers defensive breakdown where they effectively received a 4 on 1 rush, Dickie commited early and Ramsay who was about to pass, pulled the puck down and around Dickie to opening the scoring. The Western Conference final series parrallels the Eastern conference one in many ways and on Monday the two will converge, both with start times of 7:00pm single-elimination games which will undoutably decided conference supremacy. Both the Ottawa 67's and Kitchener staved off elimination on the road the Rangers taking the slightly higher road winning 7-4, while the 67's barely snuck through winning 3-2 in overtime on Sunday afternoon. All four teams are a lowly 1-2 on home ice, but if history has shown anything home ice during the seventh and deciding game is critical for the Rangers who throughout the RangersRush Archives are undefeated on home ice facing a seventh game, and have yet to win a 7th and deciding game on the road. As head coach: Peter DeBoer has illuded to on several occasions this scenario is exactly what the Rangers played so hard for during the rigorous 68-game OHL regular season schedule.
Fans sensed that things may be different this time around, in each of the two previous games where the Whalers scored first, though the Rangers did tie and lead in each of those games they lost in the end. Things were different in the first period where the Rangers restricted the Whalers to only 3 shots, compared to 10 of their own. Peter Kanko scored on one of those Rangers shots just over a minute after the Whalers had taken the lead while on the powerplay.
The second period, a period where the Rangers had been strong in their past two visits to the CSA with hoards of Rangers fans decorating the corners behind the Plymouth net was again a weak point for the Whalers who at the end of three home games in the series had been outscored 10-2 in the second period of each game. Gregory Campbell supplied the offense early connnecting on what appeared to be a broken play. Cole Jarrett whom has terrorized the Rangers with his deceptive point shot, similar to but harder than Benoit's tied the game on the powerplay, but as the Rangers did in the first they replied very quickly, Peter Kanko worked the puck into the zone, gaining a semi-break, and beat an outstretched Drew. The goal much like the other one was critical and clearly showed the resolve of the Rangers' team, they were not going to let momentum be a factor on their side of the ice.
David Clarkson and Derek Roy, who's shot went into and out of the top corner so rapidly it was barely visable to most fans, if at all gave the Rangers a 5-2 going into the dressing room. Suddenly there were many parallels between game 6 and the Rangers first visit to Plymouth during the series, a 6-1 victory inwhich 4 goals were scored during the second period following a scoreless second period. The Whalers in the third period simply weren't game to take a dive and call it a game. Much like in game #4, a come from behind 3-2 victory by the Whalers, they carried the play in the third period, and the Rangers struggled even to get the puck outside of the zone. John Mitchell scored just prior to the seven minute mark. With the Rangers on their heels but still clinging to a 2 goal lead, coach Peter DeBoer called a timeout. The pressure continued, however help came from a source that hindered the Rangers in game 5, rather than from the Rangers' bench. Jimmy Gagnon took undisiplined minor for elbowing and finally the Rangers were provided with some reprived from all of the pressure.
With the Whalers starting to press again and Dickie holding the fort for the Rangers again, Peter Kanko managed to bust through a pair of Whaler defenders, creating his own breakaway after a nice O'Nabigon pass up the middle, he beat Drew much to the delight of the over 150 Rangers fans in attendance who made the trip. Suddenly the realization was there for many of the Plymouth fans who managed to sell out the CSA for the first time in the postseason, a game 7 would be necessary and it would not occur in the friendly confinds of the CSA either. A mass exodus took place with over 7 minutes remaining in what may have been the final home game for the Whalers during the 2002-2003 season.
The Whalers unlike nearly 1,000 of their fans would not give up, on a the tail end of a Whalers powerplay and with 4:47 left on the clock Paul Drew would head to the bench in favour of an extra attacker. The Whalers pressed, and pressed, Thorburn would score with 2:27 left on the clock, but the Whalers would not get any closer. Michael Richards ended well over four minutes of empty net incompetence by filling the net with only 9 seconds left, giving us a final of 7-4.
The Rangers most recent game 7 excursions both happened in Kitchener,
in 1996, they defeated the Barrie Colts 4-3, after trailing 3-0 in that
game, and they also defeated the Sarnia Sting in 1997, 7-3 during the second
Special thanks to: Duct
Tape for the excellent game night photography.