Usually, the penalty kill is only as good as the guy who backbones the thing. That character on all 20 teams in the OHL, wears the most equipment and resides in and around the blue ice in the crease. The Rangers' netminder is penalty killing personified, the Rangers' league-leading penalty kill is operating at over 88%, nearly 20 points higher than league-worse Windsor. Perhaps most telling is how the Rangers kill penalties with Turple in goal, after single-handedly helping the Rangers defeat the Barrie Colts behind a very inexperienced Rangers' blueline in penalty-filled exhibition play, it was a sign of good things to come. On this afternoon with several two-man advantages, the end tally for the Frontenacs was a big zero for 13 on the powerplay. Infact, the Rangers with Turple backstopping them have a stellar 92.4% penalty kill rate in seven and one half games. In this game the Rangers, found a way to allow even more shots than they did in a 5-2 come-from-behind win over Erie, the scary reality for the Frontenacs is that they also allowed one less goal. After a breakaway stop on Kingston star: Radek Smolenak and several sprawling saves including one where he slide across stacking the pads to delight the crowd, there was little question as to who the hometown announces might name as the game's top star. The suspense further evaporated when Justin Azevedo and Boris Valabik were named second and third star respectively. For the second time this season Dan Turple was cheered as first star on home ice, on this night it was a season-high 53 saves on 54 shots.
Reversal of fates for both the Rangers and
Frontenacs going into the game. The Rangers favourites in the West
as the season started, found themselves tied for 8th place in the conference
after losing their 3rd straight to enter the game with a 4-4 record.
The Frontenacs meanwhile, entered the weekend on a high having opened newspapers
earlier in the week and seeing their club ranked 9th in first weekly edition
of the CHL top 10, unfortuantely the results on the weekend would be rather
disappointing for a team who has put together a quality start after missing
the postseason in 3 of the last 4 seasons. Kingston dropped a 3-2
home-ice decision to division rivals, the Belleville Bulls who won the
game scoring with 6 seconds left. Their weekend continued in Erie
on Saturday night where a lackluster performance resulted in a 7-1 loss,
before struggling to score against the Rangers on Sunday, despite the tough
schedule the Frontenacs they did appear fresh and energetic for the mostpart
against the Rangers.
The Rangers continued in the first period with the effort they had while taking a 4-2 lead over the Majors with. They pressed, and with some line changes including bumping the hard-working and strong Jean-Michel Rizk up to the top line while using Patrick Davis as a centre for the first time in recent memory. The changes appeared to give the Rangers a bit of a spark, but in addition would probably result in more balanced scoring, something the team has lacked since Davis-McGrath-Duco were accounting for approximately 2/3rds of the team's total goals. The Rangers after some hard work infront got on the board first, Jean-Michel Rizk used his lower body to protect the puck eventually sending a cross-crease pass over to promising rookie Yves Bastien who scored his 2nd goal in only 9 games thus far this season. Rizk should have been well-rested for the shift after emerging from the sin bin, serving two consecutive minors, the first for tripping and then a second for slashing after covering for linemate: Matt Pepe who fell at the point. The Frontenacs struck back later in the period, Cory Emmerton fired a shot from the point, and big Frontenacs power forward Chris Stewart made some contact with netminder Dan Turple as the puck was on its way in little did the Frontenacs know their offensive output would end after that goal.
Mike Duco gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead in the
second period, scoring on a one-time lazer-like shot from the faceoff circle,
perhaps more amazing was the 60 foot picture-perfect pass from the stick
of Justin Azevedo who also had a clean win on the faceoff. The Rangers
also struck on their next powerplay, with the second unit on for the tail
end of a powerplay, Craig Voakes crossed the blueline and simply put his
head down and drove to the net, using several Rangers in front of the net
as decoys, he lifted the puck over former Storm netminder Danny Taylor
who earlier in the period bested him on a clear breakaway opportunity.
The Frontenacs had chances of their own including a partial breakaway for
Radek Smolenak, Turple took a page out of the book of former netminder:
Eric Pfligler throwing a poke-check on the Frontenacs sniper, later in
the period he'd stack the pads on a cross-crease pass to the very same
Kingston forward. The Rangers weren't out of the woods after taking
the two goal lead, not by a longshot. They managed to take 4 consecutive
and overlapping minor penalties, highlighted at the end by a delay of game
call to Boris Valabik which left fan infuriated. Somehow Turple had
all of the answers.
In the third period the scoring chances dwindled down, but the physical play only intensified. Hulking Frontenacs forward Chris Stewart took some liberties with Matt Pepe, influencing Rangers' captain Mark Fraser to challenge the big Frontenacs forward. Each combatent dropped their helmets, and Fraser despite being two inches taller was giving away 20 pounds to the power winger. The two traded long distance bombs before falling to the ice. After leaving the box, Fraser didn't take much time to return. With Craig Voakes exiting the offensive zone with the puck near the Rangers' bench, Bobby Bolt sent Voakes flying, nearly planting him into the Rangers' bench. Again, Mark Fraser took exception, sending flying fists at Bobby Bolt against the boards infront of the Frontenacs bench, Bolt replied with a series of wild punches many of which missed their mark since Bolt's jersey was pulled over his head. While this was going on Connor Cameron battled with Dan Gyenes and the fearless Mike Duco grabbed ahold of Justin Wallingford. Fraser, obviously took the instigator, and official Ryan O'Neill was friendly enough to give the other four combatents minors and misconducts for their contributions to the melee. Fraser finished the night with 24 minutes in penalties including a pair of fighting majors.
The infractions left the Rangers with only 4 defenders including Matt Thomson who was sparringly used in this matchup. Problems compounded themselves when Kingston's Blake Pronk was disturbing netminder Dan Turple. Crashes, collisions and liberties with Turple were consistent all night long. Official Ryan O'Neill was not handing out any infractions for netminder inference throughout. Kindl took exception to yet another collision and his 4 minutes of roughing minors were incredibly difficult for the Rangers who found themselves reduced to 3 defenders. Infact on a powerplay with two minutes and change left the Rangers elected to utilize 5 forwards. Boris Valabik logged an incredible amount of ice and was not on a the ice for any goals, though he was obviously struggling between plays, didn't let the lack of energy become obvious while the play was on, especially when killing penalties, he also stayed out the box while still playing physically he took two delay of game minors. In all the Frontenacs enjoyed 7 more powerplays than the Rangers, prompting some questions from coach Peter DeBoer after the game on the radio about the officiated that was none-too-popular in Kitchener on this afternoon. Evan McGrath had three opportunities to hit the empty Kingston net in the dying minutes of the game all from inside of center, but couldn't strike gold. Jakub Kindl showed a much improved effort over recent games, during the first period he proved that it is possible to accidentally break your stick and have the bulk of it spin all of the way up to row G at the Aud. Mike Duco and Evan McGrath each have a point in all 9 Rangers games thus far.