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Rangers are on the ropes early in this series
 


Justin Azevedo tries to avoid contact with Josh Disher. 
Picture Courtesy of: OHLPhotos.com


The Rangers' offensive has looked brilliant on an intermitent basis, and for the lion's share of the two games' played in this series, unfortuantely that high-powered regular season offense has hit some snags along the way.  Infact they've been shutdown by Josh Disher to the tune of 3 goals over nearly 145 minutes of play.  The same trend continued on Saturday night in Erie, where the Rangers struggled with scoring again early in the game and but unlike their previous game did not reap the rewards of hard work in the offensive zone in the early going.  The only problem was that through a combination of a potent Otters' attack and some rather shakey Rangers' goaltending the Otters managed to explode out out to an early 4-0 lead chasing the Rangers' prized starter from the net and then putting things into cruise control for the duration of the game.  A duration where they managed only 7 shots in 34 minutes.  But still the Rangers' dominance wasn't rewarded.  With a practice looming on Sunday for the fatigued team, and an off day to reflect the Rangers will be back in Kitchener Monday for what amounts to a do-or-die battle with the Otters.

The first thought for many Rangers' fans was how to find a spot for winger: Adam Keefe who was returning to the lineup after missing a pair of games due to a suspension.  The answer became obvious late on Friday night when Patrick Davis did not return to the ice.  Still inserting Keefe in the place of Davis created more turmoil to a lineup which at times just hasn't appeared cohesive on the ice over the last couple of weeks and especially in the postseason against the Otters.  DeBoer, puzzled with the Rangers' lack of production appears to be rotating the Rangers' lines in a desperate attempt to force some offensive production out of some of the league's brightest stars who call Kitchener their home during the hockey season.  Nearing the end of yet another period of scoring frustration Erie's Chris Greene beat Dan Turple getting the Otters' on the board for their first lead of the series, also getting the loud and kazoo filled crowd into the game.  Minutes after the goal, Rangers' captain Michael Richards would square off with the very same pesky Otter in a scrap simply dominated by Kitchener's emotional leader, unfortuantely this failed to provide any momentum for the struggling Rangers.
 



David Herring the Otters' playoff leading scorer creates a screen at the top of the crease in the second period.
Picture Courtesy of: OHLPhotos.com

Early in the second period disaster struck for the Rangers.  Ryan O'Marra converted as a high-sticking minor to Mark Fraser was about to expire, the Otters took a 2-0 lead.  Things only got worse from there, just after the 5 minute mark a Brian Lee point shot snuck through, and only 1:09 later Brett MacLean was celebrating his 1st ever playoff goal.  That goal the 3rd on 4 shots in the period for Turple spelled the end of his night in goal for the Rangers with a 4-0 score for the Otters.  With Pfligler backstopping them the Rangers tried to make a game out of things.  Late in the second period Adam Keefe just returning from suspension scored on the powerplay.  Only 30 seconds into the third Andre Benoit score the first even strength goal of the series for the Rangers.  The comeback was on, or it seemed, but Josh Disher wasn't buying in, he made some quality saves keeping the Rangers under wraps.  At the other end of the ice the Rangers only allowed 7 shots on goal in the final 34 minutes of regulation.  Pfligler was pulled with three minutes left in regulation time and neither team could score during those opportune minutes.

Andrew Shennan and Boris Valabik appeared to be ready to get their fight on several times but were thwarted by the officials.  In the dying minutes of the game David Clarkson was assessed a misconduct for his comments towards officiating.  Since 1992 the Rangers are 9-3 on home ice in game 3's, in the same time period they are 4-1 in a at home game three scenario (2-0 in series where they hold home advantage) when down 2-0 in the series going in.  Notably the Rangers won last season against Plymouth playing in a similar situation.  In 1999 they lost to the Greyhounds to go down 3-0 in the series.  Geoff Platt, easily the Otters' top scorer has been held off of the scoreboard and isn't the one killing the Rangers.  Though 6 goals against in 145 minutes is hardly killing the Rangers either.  It's their rather anemic 3 goals for during that timeframe.