Everyone seems to have their comfort blanket in life, even if they don't star in the popular comic strip known as Peanuts. Despite being in the top 5 of the 20 team Ontario Hockey League for a lion's share of the season; the Rangers seem to cling to their security blankets often as if there's no tomorrow. When things start to go sour, it is often the same teams that the Rangers have trended well against during the past that seem to right the good ship Rangers. When the Rangers went through a 1-6-1 spell early in the season, they snapped out of the funk in Mississauga of all places, the same Mississauga Ice Dogs that now lead the entire Eastern Conference. You see the Rangers have not lost to the Ice Dogs during their 6 year history. Another security blanket appears to be the Otters whom the Rangers seem to defeat no matter how much they improve this season while the class of the OHL all seem to struggle with Dave McQueen's team.
The Rangers third and final safety blanket?
Let's try the Eastern Division. The Rangers had a dominating 8-2-0
record in the ole' Eastern Conference last season and with their 13 points
in 7 games going into action on Sunday (7-0-1) they are poised to improve
opon the previous year's record. With the Rangers' having lost back
to back home games and facing an extremely hot Oshawa Generals team - winners
of 7 straight, the odds seemed to be stacked against the Rangers, who haven't
seemed to be overly reliable defensively of late.
Brad Topping had been pulled after two periods in each of his previous two starts, each time with the Rangers trailing. It was very nice to see him shine in Oshawa. Oshawa rookie netminder: Ryan Gibb who was very strong in Kitchener during the exhibition schedule was judged to have been even stronger by the group whom are responsible for selecting the three stars. Each goalie faced 28 shots during the 60 minute game, and each went through two periods without allowing a goal. Brad Topping made one brilliant stop coming across the crease to stop a one-timer and then later in the third period he stuffed Tyler Donati who came in on a breakaway with a poke check like move where he sent himself sprawling at the puck. Ryan Gibb was named the game's second star and Ryan Gibb the game's first star.
Both team's powerplays struggled mightly through two periods. Just over a minute into the third period Bradon McBride (who was acquired earlier this season from the Kingston Frontenacs) tipped a Bret Nasby point shot just barely over the shoulder of Brad Topping just prior to Matt Lashoff's hooking penalty expireing. The goal opened the scoring however the Rangers came back with their own powerplay goal, and as he did on Firday night Nathan O'Nabigon scored while working with Michael Richards and Petr Kanko, an ugly goal that Andre Benoit would assist on. With just under five minutes remaining in regulation the Rangers hard working third line was pressing in the zone. They caused a pair of turnovers after bring the puck into the zone and O'Nabigon simply hacked a puck which found it's way into the top corner of the net. The two goals would make Nathan an obvious choice for first star honors. The Generals would press late in the game, especially the final two minutes which played out similar to a football game. Petr Kanko narrowly missed the empty Generals net and the Rangers ended up shorthanded with only 25 seconds left after a brawl nearly errupted out of a scrum from infront of the Rangers' net.
Boris Valabik and big Generals rookie defender:
Scott Tood battled in the first period, with Valabik dealing most of the
more punishing blows. Valabik's 9 penalty minutes helped him eclipse
200 minutes in penalties, the first Rangers to do so since Adam Keefe rung
up 254 minutes in 2001-'02. The Rangers two straight road wins over
hot teams in Oshawa and Erie were their first consecutive road wins since
mid-December when they recorded wins in Belleville and Ottawa in back-to-back