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Rangers 2003 OHL champions!


Rangers dominant in 4-1 victory to seal 67's fate


Petr Kanko trieds but just fails to put the puck past Mensator during the first period.
 

For the Rangers organization and their fans alike it was 21 years in the making.  The Rangers hadn't earned their way to the promised land in just that many years.  The Rangers did venture to the Memorial Cup, appearing in the finals both years in 1984 and 1990, but they did so as the host team, losing to the Ottawa 67's in '84 and Oshawa in '90 in both the OHL finals and Memorial Cup finals.  In 1982 the Rangers dominated a 8 point series winning 9-1, in 1984 with the Rangers finishing first overall as they did this season and hosting the cup, they fell 8-2.  The Rangers weren't about to let history repeat itself, after some anxious moments in the Conference finals against the Plymouth Whalers, the Rangers were extremely strong against the Eastern Conference: Ottawa 67's, however it did take two overtime victories in Ottawa to complete the task.  Infact, the two teams combined to be a crowd-devastating 0-3 on home ice during overtime.

The Rangers really took it to the 67's, a high-tempo start proved the Rangers' interest in finishing off the 67's while on home ice infront of a season and playoff high crowd of 6,427.  Unfortunately there was nothing that those many fans could do during the first 19 minutes of the game other than "Ooooo" and "Ahhhh" as the Rangers came close time and time again, but could not score.  Early in the first period the Rangers were granted a two-man advantage after a high-sticking minor to Brendan Bell.  The Rangers set up well but failed to score just as the 67's did early in game 3 of the series when they were given a two-man advantage.  At one point the Rangers led on the shotclock 17-1, but it was meaningless since the Rangers much like they struggled to do in game one of the series (a 3-2 overtime loss) beat Mensator who just seemed to have the answer to everything that the Rangers were doing offensively.  The Rangers did get another shot on the powerplay, Michael Richards powered his way infront of the Ottawa net and suddenly the capacity crowd errupted.


Rangers celebrate, infamous 16 puck stick (each puck coming from a victory on their way to a championship) is
seen at the far left of the picture.
 

The 67's quickly got right back into the game, quieting the Rangers crowd early in the second period when Brendan Bell beat Scott Dickie, just under a minute into the period.  Derek Roy struck back for the Rangers, this time the Rangers wouldn't relinquish the lead, instead they would build upon it.  In the late going of the second period, things started to fall apart for the 67's.  Gregory Campbell scored on the powerplay, his 15th goal of the playoffs, 6th on the powerplay.  Suddenly frustration set in for Kilrea's team, something that would rarely be seen out of a Brian Kilrea coached team.  With the heads of 67's players still spinning.  16-year-old rookie Evan McGrath took a feed from Rafal Martynowski made a nifty move and suddenly the Rangers had what must have seemed like an insurmountable 4-1 lead.  The game at this point appeared to degenerate as Adam Smyth took a minor for a run at Matt Grennier's head and Matt Foy quickly followed with a slashing minor.

The Rangers would fail to score on their second two-man advantage of the night during the third peirod.  Infact the entire third period was eventless as the Rangers seemed content to simply bottle the 67's up in their own zone, and while the 67's played disciplined hockey it was obvious that their spirit was broken, the Rangers defense was just too tight with the likes of Eminger, Smith, Halkidis, Benoit and Eason patrolling the blueline.  The 67's actually had two man-advantage opportunities in the third period.  They failed to score and the Rangers just drew increased cheers from their pumped up fans who were starting to taste victory while the Rangers ragged the puck in the neutral and offensive zones.  Jesse Boucher and Thomas Harrison were both given shifts in the third period so that they could be part of the championship game.  With the final minutes winding down Rangers fans sang goodbye to the 67's before U2 song: It's a beautiful day came on over the house speakers.


OHL comissioner: Dave Branch prepares to present the J. Ross Robertson trophy to the 2003 OHL league champs,
none other than the Kitchener Rangers!
 

As time was allowed to expire just after a whistle in the Rangers end, undressed players such as Nick Duff, Matt Manias, Matt McCann, Kevin Hurley and Paul McFarland rushed onto the ice to mob netminder Scott Dickie who played so well.  The Rangers prominantly displayed their show stick with pucks from each of their 16 victories en route to the club's first OHL championship in 21 years.  Captain Derek Roy was awarded the Wayne Gretzky 99 trophy as the playoff MVP.  Roy as team captain also accepted the J. Ross Robertson Cup, for supremacy of the OHL during the playoffs.  Derek Roy was also the game's first star, collecting the winning goal in the second period.

The insanity in the Aud then quickly poured onto the streets of Kitchener, specifically King St. through downtown Kitchener, which was at a standstill with litterally hundreds and hunderds of cars blasting their horns in celebration following the lead of the Rangers' fan bus.  Cup fever was in Kitchener again!
 

Download Championship Wallpaper HERE 

Special thanks to:  Duct Tape for the excellent game night photography.
 

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