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Heartbreak for Rangers, thriller for Otters fans

Ryan O'Marra is all over Andre Benoit immediately infront of the Rangers' net.

There's not many Otters left from the 2002-'03 season when the team missed the postseason after it's championship run, still lessons in regards to preperation for home openers shouldn't have been lost on this year's edition of the Erie Otters.  In 2002, the Rangers simply humiliated the Otters in a blow-out 8-4 victory in a near sold-out Tulio Arena, spoiling the banner raising ceremony night.  In 2004 things would be different and while the Rangers would hold both a decided shooting advantage as well as control of the game, the results for the red, white & blue were less than desirable.  The loss leaving the Rangers pointless in three games within their own division, and with their only victory coming over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the only team in league which at this point of the season has yet to record a point on their record.  Still the Rangers were quick to silent the Otters' faithful.  Michael Richards and Adam Keefe as they had throughout the exhibition schedule were quick to attack while shorthanded.  Keefe found Richards and after a lethal slapshot to the top corner the Rangers had gained an early 1-0 lead.  Veteran Otter: Geoff Platt was quick to help redeem the Otters powerplay scoring less than one minute later on the same powerplay.

During the second period the Rangers and Otters traded powerplay goals.  First Adam Keefe's shot appeared to handcuff Josh Disher, he juggled it while in the air referee Steve Webb was quick to signal a Rangers' goal while standing behind the Otters' net making the ruling that Disher's glove and the puck were behind the goal line in midair.  The controversial call was one obviously on not appreciated by the home crowd who were vocal in their displeasure.  Down at the opposite end of the ice, Geoff Platt was busy scoring his second of the night.  The Rangers got into penalty trouble late in the period.  With Davis in the box for Cross-Checking an Otter went behind the Rangers' net crashing into netminder: Carlo DiRienzo breaking his stick in the process.  With an Otter busting in on the Rangers' goal and no goalstick Jakub Kindl was forced to take a hooking minor to prevent a scoring chance putting the Rangers' down for two-men for well over a minute.  The Rangers didn't buckle while shorthanded, and entered the third with a 2-2 tie.

Derek Merlini celebrates both his first goal of the season as well as the game winner.

Overager: Rob Hisey got into the act in the third period giving the Otters their first lead of the game early on a wrist shot over Carlo DiRienzo's glove hand.  The Rangers seemed to dominate the next 10 minutes of the third, in all they peppered Disher with 18 shots in the period, the pressure finally paid off when Evan McGrath found Patrick Davis out infront of the net all alone, Davis made little mistake and finally beat Disher.  Unfortunately for the Rangers Derek Merlini answered back with his 1st of the season leading the Otters to victory late in the third.  The Rangers pressed with their netminder out, enjoyed their share of scrambles and chances, along with a pair of timeouts, but alas could not beat the game's first star: Josh Disher who had a tremendous game for the Otters.

Despite an ugly pre-season script, this game had a relatively tame look to it.  Fans were quick to boo Valabik who sparked much of the pre-season chaos when he took liberties with the significantly smaller Rob Hisey.  The Rangers held a 46-28 shooting edge, but just like things were in their own home opener goaltending proved to be the difference.  The Otters lost their only left-handed defender: Brian Lee in the first period and were forced to play much of the game with only 4 defenders all of which shoot left handed.  All three of the game's stars came from the Otters.  Netminder: Josh Disher was first, follow by: Geoff Platt (2-0) and Rob Hisey (1-2).  The Rangers were 1 for 4 on the man-advantage with a shorthanded goal, while the Otters were 2 for 7 on their chances.