Though they currently hold the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, on some nights you'd hardly know it. They've given the Knights fits, they beaten them, shut them out, they even came back from a 4-1 deficit while on the road playing the Eastern Conference-leading Peterborough Petes. The one mystery left to solve is those feisty Kitchener Rangers. The warnings' out to the rest of the league, they're about to get a lot more feisty this weekend. After Mike Duco's return to the lineup against the Storm the Rangers' are poised for the return of captain: Michael Richards, defender: Matt Lashoff and possibly access to Chris Bryson, who's Cambridge Winterhawks were elminated in overtime of a game seven while the Rangers' were in action. Still the Rangers had work to be done and most of the credit for this big win amidst a 3 game winless streak had to go to Rangers' netminder: Dan Turple and the superb specialty teams whom have been the Rangers bread and butter in 2005.
Things didn't come easy for the Rangers and
they seldomly have of late. The Rangers didn't register a shot on
goal through the first 10 minutes and when they finally did it was a tricky
bouncer from Jakub Kindl from outside of the blueline. The Rangers
could hardly be blammed, they spent most of that time fighting penalty
minutes, and killing powerplays something that they did very proficiently,
they even had a pair of minors that overlapped by 25 seconds. The
Rangers' wouldn't yield to the Storm, their penalty killing tactics only
got more high pressured and more relentless. The Storm almost got
on the board when Ryan Kitchen went in on a clear break, Turple took away
most shooting lanes and Kitchen missing over the top corner stick side.
By the time he was read to release the shot he couldn't see much net.
At the other end the Rangers went to work on a powerplay of their own,
after being held shotless in their first man advantage, Andre Benoit unleashed
another one of his patented wristers to beat Ryan MacDonald who was being
treated to his first start against the Rangers as a member of the Guelph
Storm. Andre Benoit who leads all defenseman in the OHL in goals
and points is now one goal off of his career high of 24 set last season.
Dan Turple at the other end was forced to come up with a simply splendid
glove stop during a Storm powerplay which started shortly after the Rangers'
As the first period came to a close Adam Keefe dropped his gloves with Kyle Spurr, the two have been frequent combatents regardless of where Spurr or Keefe have played. Keefe was the busier of the two and fell on top during the scrap. For Spurr the fighting major of the 20:00 mark brought his first period total up to 9 minutes. Many more fights appeared to be simply in the making though none more came to reality as the game became extremely close with neither team being able to afford to take an instigator minor. Corey Konecny who only recently returned from suspension as a result of his hit from behind on Kitchener's Justin Azevedo was in the box early in the second period for boarding. Again the Rangers' spent little time on the man advantage before achieving a positive result. David Clarkson faked a shot and placed a hard pass on to the stick of Patrick Davis around netminder MacDonald, Davis appeared to have the open half of the net to work with but elected to wait for the dimunitive MacDonald to commit diving to the other side of the net before flipping the puck in, just under the cross bar giving the Rangers a 2-0 lead on the strength of two powerplay goals. The Rangers again were plagued with penalties. Patrick Davis nearly snuck in alone while the Storm were asleep at the switch his blast was directed to the corner. Adam Keefe stormed in on goal with no one in his path his deke failed in big part to a continuous hook that simply went uncalled.
Perhaps the biggest and most unlikely event of the period was a gross misconduct assessed to Kelsey Wilson who was entangled with Boris Valabik for extended periods of time, while the two were leaving the ice for coincidental minors something was either said or done that resulted in immediate ejection for Wilson. Tyler Doig scored only 1:17 into the third period he came in front the point and put a wrister past Turple top shelf. The Storm would fail to score on a powerplay late in the game, and both teams would stall the end of the game with timeouts in the final minute of play. The Storm couldn't beat Turple who was 3rd star stopping 25 of 26 shots. Evan McGrath who was the only player to have his name appear on the scoresheet twice was the games first star, he had a pair of assists. The Rangers were efficient on the powerplay scoring 2 goals in only 4 chances. The Rangers held the Storm scoreless in 9 opportunities. With 73 points the Rangers with 8 games remaining in the schedule are only 5 points short of tying last season's total.