Suddenly, the pieces are starting to fall into place for the Rangers and their bid to defend both their OHL and CHL championship. 6'2", Chicago Blackhawks' draft pick Tyson Kellerman arrived in Kitchener on Wednesday, but really arrived on the scene on Friday night. Kellerman was greeted with tremendous cheers from the sparce Thanksgiving holiday weekend crowd that was announced at 5,660 when his name was announced as the Rangers' starting goalie in their second matchup of the season against the Windsor Spitfires.
The Rangers' who got out the gates slowly last season and took a painstakingly long time to scale the ladder of the CHL top ten, have not taken their time this season. During the first listing of the top 10, the Rangers who had played the fewest games of all of the teams found themselves ranked #5, which was highest out of all of the teams in the OHL. The Rangers' netminding tandem now features a pair of promising netminders who both have quality experience between the pipes in the Ontario Hockey League.
To some DeBoer's giving the start to Kellerman came as a huge surprise. Tyson Kellerman was at home in Kingston awaiting a trade while practicing with a Tier II team, and many thought that the Rangers' would take their time in giving the veteran netminder who is a full two years older than DiRienzo a start, turns out coach DeBoer wanted more of a trial by fire. Kellerman started, but not without some early game jitters. He lost the puck behind his goal while stickhandling and the Spitfires' top scorer: Rob Hennigar just narrowly missed wrapping the puck into the now vacated Rangers' goal. A more confident Tyson Kellerman stepped on to the ice during the second period, he looked sharper, and effectively shutdown the Spitfires offense when they were lurking. Kellerman in his first start was named 2nd star after stopping 24 of 25 shots on goal.
As they were in the Rangers' 4-3 overtime loss in Windsor, the Rangers' top line was dominant. Except in this case the Michael Richards was missing LA Kings 3rd round pick: Petr Kanko on the wing. Patrick Davis filled admirably in for the Czech winger who reportedly hurt is ankle during practice and is expected to be day-to-day with the injury. The trio, including Richards, O'Nabigon, and Davis contributed a trio of goals, including one on the powerplay during the third period. Patrick Davis contributed with two assists, his first two of the season giving him a total of 5 points (3-2). Nathan O'Nabigon opened the scoring for the Rangers at just past the halfway mark of the first period, he fired a Patrick Davis rebound over: Knechtel's shoulder.
Jesse Boucher, who entered the game goaless, had a brilliant opportunity late in the period. Recently demoted to the third line, he tried to backcheck hard seconds later in the shift, and ended up losing an edge and sliding into Kellerman who in turn was unable to stop Mitch Maunu's shot which was placed just outside of Kellerman's reach. With only 6 seconds remaining in the period Michael Richards caught rookie netminder: Kyle Knechtel going the wrong way and wristed a shot past him stealing the preverbial late period goal from the Spitfires. So much is made about late goals in the period and taking those breaks into the locker room as a team, and Michael Richards scored a goal which proved to be the turning point of the game.
The Rangers as they have made a habit of doing lately, were completely dominant in the second period. Jesse Boucher was able to redeem himself when he emerged from behind the net wrapping the puck in past Knechtel. The goal extended Paul McFarland's career-high point scoring streak to 4 games (1-3) his one goal was the game winner while up in Sault Ste. Marie. Jesse Boucher would have several other glorious opportunties that he'd fail to score on during the course of the game. Minutes after the Boucher goal, David Clarkson would provide some insurance redirecting an Evan McGrath shot, giving the Rangers a 4-1 lead, in a period where they dominated and outshot the Spitfires 19-6.
The Rangers powerplay which finished the game 1 for 7, finally got in on the act in the third period. Andre Benoit snuck in from the point and buried his 5th goal of the season, connecting on a Michael Richards feed. The game wasn't without intensity, Cam Jansen was wreckless on the ice as per usual, he fought Adam Keefe during the first period, and was also given a 4 minute penalty for a vicious butt-end on rookie defender: Boris Valabik late in the game. Valabik made short work of Jeff Leavitt much to the delight of the crowd at the Aud.
Prior to the national anthem, the Rangers honored Dan Synder's memory with a moment of silence. Synder's funeral took place in Elmira earlier in the day. Mike Chmielewski and Chris Gravelding each played in their 2nd games. Gravelding would finish the night +2. Chimelewski played with Peter Franchin and Anthony Potoschnik on the Rangers' fourth line, which saw plenty of ice time during this game. 1st round pick: Deveraux Heshmatpour was a healthy scratch.
The Rangers finished last season with a 1-3
record against the Windsor Spitfires. This year they have split the
series thus far with Windsor winning on home ice in overtime. 6 of
the first 7 Rangers' games have been against Western division rivals, the
Rangers have points in all 6 of those games (5-0-0-1).
Excellent Game night Photography by: Stephen Gardiner