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Playoff Preview
(4) Kitchener vs. (5) Plymouth


Series Synopsis:

March 19th, 2004

Rangers fans are all too familiar with the Plymouth Whalers, they are certainly not the enemies that you don't know.  The Rangers and Whalers made acquaintances 11 times last season in total once all of of the 7 playoff matchups were added to the 4 regular season matchups.  Aside from the familiarity of playing each other the Whalers and Rangers share other bonds.  The Rangers' coaching staff of: Peter DeBoer and Steve Spott were once with the Plymouth Whalers, as was the Rangers' second leading goal scorer: Nathan O'Nabigon.  On the Whalers side of the puck, John Mitchell, one of the most improved players in the OHL this season, led the Whalers in scoring with 82 points.  Mitchell hails from Waterloo, and playing infront of family in friends just adds fuel to the fire for the John Mitchell.  Then of course there is former Ranger: Ryan Ramsay who was dispatched last season in exchange for Gregory Campbell who helped propell the Rangers' eventual Memorial Cup run.

Last year the playoff series between the two teams was too close for many to call.  This season, things are even more knoted up, the Rangers and Whalers have sawed off their season series at 2-2-0, and in addition the two clubs finished the season with 76 points a piece, and home ice could only be decided by the team with more regular season wins, where the Rangers enjoyed a 2 win advantage.

The season series between the two teams started off with a bang in Kitchener.  Seemingly, as soon as the championship banners had dropped, Andre Benoit started dropping pucks behind both Plymouth Whaler netminders.  60 minutes later Andre Benoit had tied the late: Brryan Fogarty's record for points in a game by a defender.  In the head-to-head series the Whalers' James Wisniewski wasn't to be outdone.  He paced the Whalers in scoring with 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists).

The Rangers have tipped their hand early.  Peter DeBoer intends to go with veteran netminder: Brad Topping, who started and finished each of the last 3 Rangers' regular season games.  Topping has also started in each of the last three games against the Whalers.  During the last head-to-head matchup between the two teams, the Rangers prevailed in what was the first defensive battle between the two teams who tallied a total of 32 goals in the previous three games combined.  Brad Topping will have to come up big for the Rangers as he did on the last Friday of the regular season.  The Whalers' weakness might be in their backup netminding, Ryan Nie has not seen too much ice time all season.

Gamebreakers: Petr Kanko struck for 3 goals in a critical game 6 victory in Plymouth with the Rangers on the brink of elimination.  Kanko's mohawk appears to have also made a return.  James Wisniewski will provide offense from both the point and on the rush, the Rangers have struggled to contain him all season long.


Finish: 4th
Regular Season record: 34-26-6-2
Head-to-head record: 2-2-0

Finish: 5th
Regular Season record: 32-24-9-3
Head-to-head record: 2-2-0
Top 5 Regular Season Scorers:
Player GP G A P
Michael Richards 58 36 53 89
Andre Benoit 65 24 51 75
Petr Kanko 55 26 42 68
Nathan O'Nabigon 68 31 20 51
Evan McGrath 68 15 36 51

Netminding (Top 2 Active goalies)
Player GP W-L-T Avg Sv%
Carlo DiRienzo 42 18-15-4 3.27 .894
Brad Topping 18 7-7-0 3.70 .879

Top 5 Regular Season Scorers:
Player GP G A P
John Mitchell 65 28 54 82
Ryan Ramsay 61 29 48 77
James Wisniewski 50 17 53 70
John Vigilante 66 30 38 68
Jonas Fiedler 63 18 28 46

Netminding (Top 2 Active goalies)

Player GP W-L-T Avg Sv%
Paul Drew 43 22-17-3 2.93 .914
Ryan Nie 19 8-6-2 2.72 .910
Head-to-Head top scorers
Player GP G A P
Andre Benoit 4 5 5 10
Jesse Boucher 3 2 3 5
Adam Keefe 4 2 2 4
Matt Lashoff 4 1 3 4
Michael Richards 4 2 1 3

Netminding (head-to-head)

Player GP W-L-T Avg
Brad Topping 3 1-2-0 3.64
Carlo DiRienzo 2 1-0-0 4.44
Head-to-Head top scorers
Player GP G A P
James Wisniewski 4 3 5 8
Ryan Ramsay 4 1 4 5
John Vigilante 4 3 1 4
John Mitchell 4 1 3 4
Nick Vernelli 4 2 1 3

Netminding (head-to-head)

Player GP W-L-T Avg
Paul Drew 4 2-2-0 4.80
Jeff Weber 1 0-0-0 6.00