All of the signs were there, the writing was on the wall, the Rangers had won 4 of 5 games, but in the last 3 of those wins their margin of victory - razor thin, yes that thin, despite a 3 goal margin in Guelph, a 2 goal cushion in Owen Sound and a 3 goal win on home ice against the Erie Otters team. All competent Midwestern rivals, all margins of victory based almost exclusively on the netminding of Dan Turple. Should the Rangers' star netminder not arrive at the arena with a sensational game, lights out! On this day, Turple did not bring his super hero cape, and unlike in many previous games, the Rangers' offense wasn't quite as pin-point accurate as they have been recently and furthermore the potent powerplay despite one early goal was virtually a non-factor scoring only once in 13 opportunities, many of those being two-man advantages. It's a good time for some quality adjustments and DeBoer took advantage of the opportunity to play some of the younger Rangers. Sean Smyth, Yves Bastien, Mike Pelech, Matt Thomson, Nick Spaling and Dan Gyenes all enjoyed their most ice team of the young season in this game. Backup netminder: Mark Packwood even got into the act.
Things didn't look so doom and gloom to start
the game, after strong penalty kill with Valabik in the box early the Rangers
went to work on the powerplay, and the powerplays didn't stop coming, while
up two men Mike Duco and Justin Azevedo started passing the puck back and
forth with Justin Azevedo finally blasting a one-timer from the point right
through all of the traffic infront. The Rangers came quite close
to distancing themselves from the Storm, something that Guelph failed to
do in their first matchup. Evan McGrath found himself in the slot
all alone but shot wide. Perhaps more surprising was the emergence
of the usually clumsy Boris Valabik on the point for the powerplay during
Matt Lashoff's absence. Valabik surprised some of those in attendance
with some of his moves at the point, but more shocking was lazer-beam like
one-timer that thundered off of the post behind MacDonald, the near chance
leaves big Boris scoreless in 80 regular season games after scoring the
third of his rookie season nearly two full years ago.
While many weren't impressed with the overall performance of the Rangers, no one accused them of being lucky on this afternoon. Kelsey Wilson scored tipping in an odd point shot that just barely found the top corner of the net, with the Rangers netminder hardly moved being completely screen on the play. Less than one minute later, Wilson found himself on the scoresheet again, scoring his 3rd in only two games against the Rangers this season. With the Storm poised to go on the man advantage again, Matthew Lyall skated into the zone, and stunned everyone by floating a no-look pass to the front of the net that Wilson used his scoring touch to chip into the top corner of the net around netminder Dan Turple. The third goal of the night was the only one that Turple may have wanted back coincidentally it turned out to be the winner. Harry Young fired in a shot and Turple was unable to contain the rebound, Matthew Lyall sent the rebound in giving the Storm a two goal cushion, perhaps more embarassing to the Rangers, was the 4th Storm goal, Matt D'Agostini fought his way around behind the net losing Jakub Kindl, he found Callahan infront, who was only defended by dimunitive centre Justin Azevedo. Callahan took full advantage of the mismatch and blasting the puck past Turple who probably never even had a chance to see the puck on the play.
Mark Packwood entered shortly after the 4th goal, his first appearance of the season. When Tyler Doig slipped the puck under Packwood's arm on the shortside while on the powerplay, his shutout streak of: 83:42 (including 20 minutes of playoff time against the London Knights) came to an end. The Rangers weren't without glorious chances of their own, Justin Azevedo looked deadly, but the fortunes just weren't with the 17-year-old fireplug. Azevedo found himself with the puck all alone infront but blasted the puck wide weakly because his stick didn't hold up. Later on in the period, he used a deke move similar to the one he put on Neil Conway in Owen Sound but just failed to score. Mark Fraser appeared to have his first ever OHL goal very late in the first period, but Ryan Donally had crashed into MacDonald, though many in attendance voiced their concerns with a chorus of boos that Donally may have been helped in. Evan McGrath was stopped on a breakaway early in the third and Duco's wraparound chance was somehow thwarted by MacDonald.
One of the positives of the afternoon was Nick Spaling's first career OHL goal, after playing for the Listowel Cyclones who shocked everyone in the 2005 postseason, he was rewarded for a solid two-way game with some ice time while shorthanded iin the third, Matt Pepe cleared the puck and Nick Spaling stepped into the zone wide and blasted the puck through MacDonald. The highlight fort the many disappointed Rangers' fans was Boris Valabik's fight with Kelsey Wilson, Valabik took little time in disposing of the former Sting forward, landing a pair of heavy right hands sending Wilson into the ice. Of biggest concern to Rangers' fans is the welfare of overage netminder: Dan Turple, Turple appeared somewhat lame in getting to his feet after the third Storm goal, when he did leave the ice, he proceeded down the hall instead of performing door duties.