If there was one team that the Rangers were likely to break out of their funk against in the league it might have well been the Erie Otters. Not that the Otters by any stretch are the worst team in the OHL, or even poised to be, though they do appear to be in tough in what is being called easily the most powerful division in the OHL. It's just that the Otters have found many ways to lose against the Rangers in recent times. In fact at the end of this night, the Otters had found 11 different ways to lose to the Rangers, in 11 opportunities. On this Saturday the Otters overtook the Mississauga Ice Dogs for longest losing streak against the Rangers. The current Ice Dog streak stands at 10 games, against the Rangers. Those 10 loses represent each and every single game the franchise has played against the Rangers.
The a night of opposites of the night before seemed to be the order for the Rangers who started Tyson Kellerman, who was eventually replaced by Carlo DiRienzo going into the third period. Unlike the night before the Rangers did get off to a quick start. Adam Keefe and the Rangers' third line appeared to have gotten the Rangers on the board early, however Keefe was guilty of kicking the puck into the Otters net past goaltender: Josh Disher and Disher didn't even need to protest in order to have official Carman Cox call the goal back.
The Rangers got on the board for real only minutes later while operating on the powerplay. Petr Kanko swept the puck through Disher and the Rangers were on the board early. During the next powerplay Tyson Kellerman rather than Josh Disher would be the focus of attention. Some careless puck movement combined with a bouncing puck led to an Otters clear breakaway and Tyson Kellerman shone, following the shooter glove side then sliding to make the stop. Petr Kanko struck for the second time during the period in the final minute during an Otters powerplay, he capitalized on yet another bouncing puck in the neutral zone. He broke in with an Otters' defenseman in pursuit and made no mistake in deking Disher to give the Rangers a two goal cushion going into the intermission.
Things were very different during the second
period for the Rangers and more specifically Tyson Kellerman who seemed
very in control during the first period stopping all 10 shots sent in his
direction. Sean Courtney broke Kellerman's shutout early in the second
period, while working on a two on one. Galasek's pass just barely
snuck through Matt Lashoff, and Courtney put the puck where there was space
on the other side of the Rangers' goal. Sean Courtney is best known
around Erie for the biggest goal in Erie Otters history, his double overtime
blast just barely found its way past Colts' netminder: David Chant to clinch
the OHL championship infront of over 5,500 screaming Otters fans in the
spring of 2002.
Petr Kanko nearly made a hattrick as Michael Richards found him while shorthanded again, this time he would get a partial break and not find the space required to make too many moves on Disher who wasn't about to be beaten for a third time by the Rangers' flamboyant winger. Minutes later David Clarkson would follow up with a goal of his own, set up by Evan McGrath, his goal would give him the team lead in goals scored with 8, Boucher and McGrath would draw the assists. Benoit's goal like Clarkson's was the 8th of his season.
The Otters just wouldn't go away on this night and especially not during the second period of play, one better forgotten for vetern netminder: Tyson Kellerman who surrendered 4 goals in a time span of 17:31. Sean O'Connor would bring the Otters back to within a goal, after Kellerman was unable to coral a Alex Karaulchuk rebound. The Rangers were not overly impressive during the period, things appeared to have been salvaged when Andre Benoit snuck in from the point and beat Disher, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Only 16 seconds after the Rangers had gained their third 2 goal lead, Rob Hisey scored. His shot found his way into Kellerman's midsection, and Brad Bonello slide into Kellerman causing the puck along with the Rangers' netminder to enter the net. Not even one minute later Alex Karaulchuk flipped the puck over Kellerman to tie the game for the first time since the opening minutes.
Because of the Otters' 4 goal onslaught during the second period Peter DeBoer elected to change netminders, allowing DiRienzo to enter the game, as Kellerman had the night before. DiRienzo was solid, and the two teams spent the third period playing much more cautiously than the previous two periods. The Rangers got a powerplay late and made it count, a Matt Lashoff slapshot was tipped into the back of the net by Nathan O'Nabigon. The Otters pressed with their net empty and for the final 16 seconds of the game enjoyed a 6 on 4 advantage but weren't able to generate much in the way of scoring opportunities to tie the game. DiRienzo stopped 7 of 7 shots faced in the period.
Deveraux Heshmatpour returned from his two
game suspension and played a regular shift alongside fellow underaged defenseman:
Chris Gravelding. Adam Keefe, much to the delight of Otters fans
got involved with resident enforcer: Bryan Hamm who was acquired from the
Petes at the deadline last season, they went at each other for quite a
long time with Hamm clearly holding the upper hand. The Otters powerplay
struggled going 0-for-9 allowing one shorthanded goal in the first, scored
by Petr Kanko.
Excellent Game night Photography by: Stephen Gardiner