Prior to game one against the Whalers all the buzz at the Aud was about the prospect of the Whalers playing without their starting netminder: Paul Drew, colourfully referred to by Kitchener fans as: "Red Light Drew". Once the dust had cleared at the end of the game the conversation reverted to the young man who started between the pipes for the Whalers, rookie: Ryan Nie, who stopped 33 of 35 shots, and gathered in a first star performance. Undoubtably he was the difference over Rangers' starter: Brad Topping who's performance was certainly nothing to write home about, but would have been sufficient to defeat the Whalers should Nie have stayed to the rookie script. Rangers' fans shouldn't fear, if things do go according to script the series will even out on Saturday night in Plymouth. The two teams are now involved in their third series against each other, the previous two taking place in the second round of the 1996 playoffs, and of course last season in the third round. Plymouth has taken the opening game of each series, while to date the Rangers have won game 2 of each series.
The two teams were not as hesitant to get things
going as they were on the previous Friday night, however unlike that game
this one was marred with penalties and for the Rangers many costly powerplay
opportunities that they did not capitalize on. Only 10 seconds into
the game, Scott Hutchinson had the hometown crowd booing with a slashing
call on Petr Kanko who is again sporting a mohawk. The Rangers had
powerplay opportunities of their own, more than the Whalers, 5 in the first
period alone. At one point former Ranger: Ryan Ramsay, exited the
box only to return seconds later. The Rangers could not score on
those man advantages and while the did have the puck in the Whalers zone
for most of the time they ultimately failed to put a sufficient amount
of shots on goal. The Rangers would finish the night 1 for 11 on
the powerplay while the Whalers were 2 for 6, definately the difference
in the game.
James Wisniewski, RangersRush's pick for the Whalers' game breaker, finally opened the scoring at nearly the midway point of the second period. While on the powerplay he snuck in from the point and quickly snapped a shot past Brad Topping short side. Later in the period while playing 4 on 4 hockey Ryan Ramsay sped into the zone circled the net, came out infront wide and nearly beat Topping, the rebound found it's way to Mike Letizia who had an easy time of putting the rebound past Topping opening up a two goal lead. Earlier in the period Ryan Ramsay stepped in on a breakaway and appeared to be finding his way around a Brad Topping diving poke check before being hooked off of the puck by a Rangers' defender who was probably luckier than not to have only found his way to the penalty box. Late in the second period the Rangers finally got on the board on the powerplay when an Andre Benoit point shot deflected off of Adam Keefe and just barely snuck into the net.
John Mitchell, the regular season points leader for the Whalers appeared to have put things away for the Whalers on the powerplay early in the third period, when he zipped a shot past Topping restoring the two-goal cushion. The Rangers wouldn't go away quietly and their tally to get back into the game midway through the third period came from the most unlikely of sources. Alex MacDonell first made a diving stop at the point to keep the puck in the zone, risking his body in the process and kept the puck in. Cam Fergus then fed the puck to Peter Franchin who scored only 5 goals during the regular season but put on in when the Rangers needed it the most. The Rangers would enjouy several powerplays from that point on during the thrid but would be incapable of knotting the score at one even with Topping on the bench while playing on the powerplay.
Thomas Harrison surprisingly was in the Rangers'
lineup after taking a hit along the end boards in Owen Sound which prematurely
ended his game the week prior. Mike Duco was also in the Rangers'
lineup and impressed, especially in the physical aspect of his game, he
took Richard Power's helmet off during a mid-ice collision during the third