In more than 20 years, Kitchener has never swept a season-series with the Saginaw Spirit where a season-series constituted a minimum of 4 games, on this night that trend continued as the Rangers just barely snuck into overtime scoring in the final minute, but untimately failed to score in the extra frame though they did have their chances to take the season-series 4-0-0 over the Spirit. Instead the Rangers tied, and the all-time series is now at 9-1-2 for the Rangers with two overtime victories going in Kitchener's favour. Saginaw's starter: Jeff Weber is more familiar to the Rangers as a member of the Plymouth Whalers but on this night he became the 6th Saginaw netminder to appear against the Rangers in only three seasons! The Rangers started Turple who was the 7th goaltender of the Rangers to appear against the Spirit. Those netminders include for Kitchener: Dickie, DiRienzo, Biasucci, Topping, and now Turple, Saginaw has had: Brown, Rock, Daniels, and now Weber start against the Rangers. Kellerman and Pfligler have played both against the Rangers and against the Spirit while wearing the opposite jerseys; even assistant trainer: Neil Hoch has dressed against the Spirit. Regardless of who is in goal, the bottom line is sliding the puck past that masked individual and into the net. Since the trading deadline the Spirit have been riding on a wave of hot netminding from Jeff Weber who's OHL career path landed him in Barrie for pretty much a whole seasons worth of games spaning over two years. The big guy: Dan Turple got the start in the Rangers' net.
The Rangers held a decided shooting edge in
the first period 12-6 and carried the play through the first frame as well.
The Rangers kept Jeff Weber busy and several forwards including David Clarkson,
Kevin Henderson and Adam Keefe were quick to crash the net perhaps at times
they were taking advantage of the fact that their former teammate Thomas
Harrison was up patrolling the wing for the Spirit and not in the vicinity
of the Spirit net to take liberties with those who dared unsettle their
prized starting netminder, especially on this night where the Spirit did
not have the services of backup Aaron Rock who is injured at the time.
The best chance may have gone to Jean-Michel Rizk who had the puck and
some time down at the side of the Spirit net, he had time to collect his
own rebound but couldn't find much of anywhere to shoot at with Jeff Weber
staring him down in the Spirit net.
With the game still scoreless in the second period, Dan Turple came up with the biggest stop of the game, he robbed Danile Borges with his glove hand keeping the Spirit off of the board. In what should have been a thrilling tilt to give the remainder of the game some pace Adam Keefe and former teammate (current Spirit captain) Thomas Harrison squared off with helmets off and everything around center ice. Their scrap was severely disappointed as both combatents slipped and fell immediately after Keefe landed one glancing blow. Perhaps there was just too much love in the air with a pair of veteran players who have known each other for more than three years. It was very similar to Harrison's scrap with former Ranger winger: Bill Kinkel in Kingston when the two overaged fighters hit the ice the mutual respect was obvious. David Clarkson and Kevin Henderson's line was first to break the ice, the pair of wingers dished the puck back to Andre Benoit who's point blast went all of the way through to the back of the net giving the Rangers their first lead since one week earlier 1-0. For Benoit it was his 22nd goal of the season, leaving him two shy of this career best 24 in the 2003-'04 season. The Spirit struck back late in the period when their most experienced forward: Jesse Gimblett picked up a Tom Pyatt rebound and beat Turple glove side to tie the game.
In the third period the Rangers had their best chance to walk away with the game after a high-sticking call to Steven Whitley on Kevin Henderson, during the Rangers' previous visit to the Dow in Saginaw it was Whitley's penalty that gave the Rangers' a powerplay where they scored the go ahead goal. Henderson was slightly cut and this call was a double-minor. The Spirit came on really tough on the penalty kill and managed to shut down the Rangers' powerplay through most of 4 minutes before Patrick Davis took an interference call while trying to make room for one of the Rangers' point men immediately after a faceoff. The Spirit would fail to score on their own powerplay but soon after Matt Corrente would approach the Rangers' net with speed just beating Boris Valabik to a puck at the top side of the crease, he scored to give the Spirit their first lead of the game. With exactly one minute left on the clock Michal Birner would send the puck down the ice at the vacated Rangers' net, it would miss by about 6 inches. Those inches came back to haunt the Spirit as the Rangers after getting the puck back to Andre Benoit on the ensuing faceoff would result a tying goal by rookie Justin Azevedo with 56 seconds on the clock. The Rangers were outshot 7-4 in a thoroughly entertaining overtime, though the Rangers may have had the best opportunites. The Rangers played a disciplined game and official Terry Hobor let the two teams play distributing 3 powerplays a side, neither team had a powerplay goal. Late in overtime Spirit third period hero: Matt Corrente left the ice with roaring approval after he fought with Patrick Davis, clearly a mismatch as Corrente the shorter of the two simply dominated in the fight. After the game Spirit head coach Bob Mancini had high praise for Rangers' defender Andre Benoit who factored in on both goals, and illuded to 12-2 thrashing by the Rangers earlier in the season, it wasn't a thrashing that was avenged but the young Spirit team did well on this night against an older but shortstaffed Rangers' team. The announced crowd of 4,881 was the largest to watch a Saginaw-Kitchener game at the Dow Center - formerly Wendler Arena.