The old saying goes: "to the victors go the spoils," during the 2002 postseason campaign the Erie Otters won the Ross J. Robertson trophy symbolic of OHL supremacy, the Erie Otters were victors on home ice in overtime over the Barrie Colts in thrilling fashion. The Otters received the last of their spoils during their home opener, before their victory party was spoiled by a Rangers team that no one knew was on the verge of an OHL championship season. The Rangers destroyed the Otters 8-4 before a capacity crowd at the Tulio Arena in Erie, leading to a remark by Erie coach: Dave McQueen that the Otters were quote: "living in the past." The 6 current Rangers who started on that night, brought knowledge foward to this season, where the Rangers would make life much easier by winning on home ice during their banner raising long awaited home opener. Afterall, the Rangers did begin their championship campaign in a rather embarassing manner losing 5-0 to the Windsor Spitfires while on home ice.
For Andre Benoit, whom was fortunate enough to be find himself at an NHL camp in Kitchener, it must have been a dream come true. The former defender turned forward compiled an astonishing 8 points (4 goals and 4 assists), tying a record set by Bryan Fogarty for defenders in 1989. He also fell just one goal of tying both the team and OHL records for goals by a defenseman in a game, owned by Alan MacInnis who accomplished the feat in 1983 against the expansion Guelph Storm. A hattrick was already on the board by Benoit at the 1:07 point of the second period, and a fourth goal came just 15 seconds later before the third could be announced.
The Rangers' waisted no time in getting to netminder: Paul Drew who was taunted by many of the animated 6,067 in attendance. After chasing the puck back into their own end the Rangers burst up ice, a drop pass to Boucher was missed but Benoit followed into the high slot unleashing a wrist shot which beat Drew high on the stick side. Just over a minute later, while the Rangers are on a man-advantage Adam Keefe finds himself in a similar scenario to that of Andre Benoit, and follows the defenders' lead well, he let a carbon copy wrist shot go stick side that sent the excitable crowd into a frenzy again. Whalers coach: Mike Vellucci, to calm his starter, elects to rest the veteran on the bench to allow him the chance to compose himself. The plan nearly backfired for the Whalers who had a pointshot rung off of the crossbar immediately after having put Weber into the game. Once Drew returned to action, as was intended Benoit, the Rangers' incumbent surgeon went to work again, finding the back of the net for the second time, this time on the man advantage.
Vellucci was quick to call a timeout, and it
seemed to rally the troops. Gino Pisellini was able to drive a rebound
past Rangers' starter: Carlo DiRienzo to put the Whalers on the board while
they were enjoying a man advantage and shortly after Mike Martinelli, fired
a low shot DiRienzo lost in his pads, that eventually snuck over the red
goal line. Evan McGarth scored the 3rd of a series of four powerplay
goals for the Rangers to regain the Rangers' confidence late the period.
Both Matt Lashoff and Andre Benoit were in on all 4 first period scoring
Benoit struck again twice in the second period, the first of those goals coming on the man advantage. The second goal chased Paul Drew for the duration of the night. He was replaced with Jeff Weber who was also seen during last year's post season. Weber changed little early on Chad McCaffery quickly scored on the powerplay less than one minute later.
After a pair of powerplay Whalers goals by: Vigilante and Wisniewski cut the Rangers' lead down to 7-4, Patrick Davis scored his first goal as a Ranger. Free agent pickup: Anthony Pototschnik also scored his first career goal later on in the third period giving the Rangers a final margin of victory of six goals, in their 10-4 victory. The margin of victory was most goals scored by the Rangers in a home opener since they scored 10, in a 10-2 win over the Owen Sound Platers in 1995.
Officials wouldn't let O'Nabigon and Pisellini get together for a dance early in the game, but late in the third the two rumbled in a heavyweight tilt that featured some huge punches by each fighter in what could be ruled an extremely entertaining split decision. Both Adam Keefe and Ryan Ramsay went down and stayed down during this game, Keefe was helped off of the ice in the second but did return in the third period. Ryan Ramsay was originally booed by many in attendance for what many thought was an act, he left and did not return. Evan McGrath (1-2) and Rafal Martynowski (0=3) each scored three points.
The Rangers directed a total of 45 shots at
Whalers' netminding. The Rangers were 5 for 11 on the man advantage
while the Whalers went 3 for 10. After spending the preseason as
the only Ranger to dress in all 6 game without registering a point, had
one of his rebounds slammed in by David Clarkson in the third.
Excellent Game night Photography by: Stephen Gardiner.