No World Junior championships hangover for Michael Richards, the evidence? How about 3 points in each of the Rangers last three games since returning from Helsinki Finland, this one goal and two assist performances have nearly become predictable. And with Richards scoring at that rate, the beat goes on for a Rangers club who now hasn't lost in 12 on home ice (10-0-2), after a closer than need be 6-5 victory over the Erie Otters, the Rangers also remain undefeated in 12 against an Otters squad who are quickly losing patience with their lengthy struggles with the Rangers. Andre Benoit was also very strong during the weekend set of three games, as always he logged an incredible amount of ice time, he was also named first star against Otters after scoring a pair of goals and adding a pair of assists. After scoring a record 8 points during the season opener against the Plymouth Whalers and taking home player of the week honors, Andre Benoit's name could come up again after his 8 points (3-5) during the three games this weekend.
Things started quickly during this game and
as things were against the Petes, goals seemed easy to come by for both
teams. The Rangers started the veteran: Brad Topping for the third
straight game on the weekend. With Alex Karaulchuk in the box for
unsportsmanlike conduct early in the first period, Tomas Galasek broke
into the Rangers' zone with Rob Hisey and scored shorthanded. The
Rangers powerplay then got to work. A pair of nearly identical goals
by Andre Benoit, who used: David Clarkson as a screen infront of the Otters
net which was tended by: Josh Disher. Brad Topping picked up the
assist on the first of the two goals. Despite their immediate predicament,
the Otters refused to give up. Michael Bluden scored the first of
two on the night on the powerplay to bring the Otters back even.
The Rangers as they did on Friday night, were able to open up a two goal lead during the second period. There were also a few crazy goals during the second period, the first of which brought the Aud crowd into a frenzy, with a delayed penalty to the Otters. Andre Benoit was able to buy time at the point where he feed Boris Valabik, after doing so he headed directly to the net along with 8 other skaters who created an impossible screen for Disher to see through. Valabik faked the shot, and then found O'Nabigon who was streaking down the wing after replacing Topping whom had gone to the bench. Nathan O'Nabigon's wicked wrist shot was good for a 3-2 lead. Craig Voakes added a powerplay marker for the Rangers who officially went 4 for 6 on the man advantage, and effectively 5 for 7 with the goal with the extra attacker on the ice.
The Otters whom were perfect in the new year with four straight victories weren't so easy to break afterall though. With Deveraux Heshmatpour in the box for tripping very late in the period, they were able to convert on the powerplay. Just a minute later former Pete: Josh Patterson fired a shot which banked into the Rangers' net drawing the Otters even again. Earlier in the period Patterson was involved in a very lengthy and entertaining bout with Rangers' toughguy Thomas Harrison. The Rangers appeared to be self-destructing, that would become even more evident when Boris Valabik took a delay of game penalty while getting in to it at the Otters' bench. As always veteran leadership was there to get the Rangers out of their funk, Andre Benoit stormed into the Otters zone alone with the puck, drove to the net and was violently slammed into the post, effectively taking one for the team, his rush drew a penalty and with time dying down in the period the Rangers were playing 4-4, with Richards manning the point, Clarkson dropped a hard to handle pass back to the point, and Richard struggled to handle it prior to unleashing a wrister which would put the Rangers up this time for good.
Kanko and Bluden would exchange a pair of even strength goals during the third period. Petr Kanko would narrowly miss an opportunity for a four point night, after somehow missing the Otters empty net from point blank range. After the game he joked that the net moved. Matt Lashoff endured back problems and only saw one shift of ice time. Matt Pepe was again called up from the Cambridge WinterHawks, he actually played in Waterloo against the Siskins during the afternoon. Deveraux Heshmatpour saw some increased ice time and made a very nice play on a Otters' two on one.