The Rangers continue to make believers out of their fans in Kitchener, and Rangers fans all 6,108 of them seem to be manufacturing intimidation for those who dare visit the home of the 2003 Memorial Cup Champions. Chants and especially cheers echoed through the 53 year old Aud, and with the way that the Rangers have been playing on home ice, the 4-1 victory seemed almost like another day at the office. The corporate ladder that the Rangers must climb has many rungs ahead, but all are spaced together. The Rangers sit tied for fourth in the conference, but only two points back of the trio of leaders who have accumulated 30 points each (Sault Ste. Marie, Guelph, and London). The Rangers have come a long way from being a struggling team that went through a 1-6-1 stretch, since then the Rangers have won 6 of 7 and 4 straight both overall and on home ice, where they seem to be drawing energy from some very energetic sellout crowds.
Two plays characterized what was a very close checking playoff-like game. Carlo DiRienzo was forced to come up big during the second period when the Sting stormed through Matt Lashoff at the Rangers' blueline and proceeded to skate in alone, on DiRienzo. With both a player on a clear break as well as a passing option DiRienzo came up with what had to easily be the best stop of the night. Andre Benoit probably provided some very heavy competition for play of the game when on Rangers' line change he took the opportunity to squeeze a neutral zone clear, and took the through the entire Sting team around All-Star netminder: Ryan Munce and into the back of the net. DiRienzo on the strength of his spectacular stop as well as his other 23 stops was first star. Andre Benoit's unassisted marker wasn't quite enough to bring him up to the star podium in Kitchener, where Michael Richards appeared for the 3rd consecutive game.
The Rangers started with a flurry, while on
the powerplay less than one minute into the game, they pressed the Sting
and seemed to have them at their will. The Rangers maintained puck
control, and eventually, just after Carcillo found his way back onto the
ice, Jesse Boucher picked up a puck infront of the net that had deflected
off of someone's shin, and banked it into the net. Unfortuantely
for the Sting Munce was looking towards the corner because of the screen
set up by the Rangers infront of the Sarnia net. After a spirited
but not overly well thought out fight between Marco Capara and Thomas Harrison
the Sting seemed to get things back into order. Their strong backchecking
led to neutral zone game, without much in the way of puck posssesion for
either team. 32-24 shot totals would reflect this tight-checking
play at the end of the game.
The second period was easily the Sting's strongest. Each team took only one penalty in the rapid period. The Sting had more than half of their 24 shot total during the second period where they outshot the Rangers 13-8, and also outscored the Rangers, as Michael Haley was able to convert a one-time Richard Clune pass from infront of the Rangers' net. DiRienzo frustrated throughout the period, of course highlighted by his two on none breakaway stop.
The third period for the most part was a continuation of the second period, in the early going the Sting had the momentum on their side, however the Rangers would surge back and Petr Kanko would convert a Michael Richards feed at the mid way point of the period, after many close calls for the Sarnia Sting netminder: Ryan Munce. Daniel Carcillo complicated any Sting comeback attempts with a selfish sucker punch on lanky Rangers defender: Boris Valabik, who didn't seem to think twice before administering a severe beating to the annoying Sting winger. The Rangers would fail to capitialize on the instigatior powerplay which followed the fight. Andre Benoit would catch the Sting napping during a Rangers trade. He'd wind, weave and dart towards Munce before finally throwing the puck behind the third year veteran netminder. Craig Voakes would follow up with an empty net goal to close the scoring at 4-1.
Prior to the game, London forward: Daniel Bois
was suspended for 8 games by the league for his part in the Andre Benoit
injury sustained last game. Andre Benoit's 12th goal, ties his for
the team lead with David Clarkson. Andre Benoit also leads the team
in plus / minus with a +16, which coincidentally matches both his jersey
number and the amount of stitches in his forehead. For the first
time this season the Rangers elected to dress 7 defenders. Ryan Munce
of the String was selected as the third star after stopping 28 of 31 shots.
All five of the games goals were scored at the North end of the Memorial