It's been a while since the Rangers have been blanked on home ice, they avoided doing so all of the 2004-'05 season through the entire postseason, but for the first since the Attack shutout the Rangers 4-0 in February of 2004, the Rangers were embarassed infront of hometown fans. More than 6,000 of them to be exact, and it wasn't for lack of opportunities, the Rangers who had 12 man advantages including several two-man advantages could not bulge the twine behind sophomore Plymouth Whalers' netminder Justin Garay. Justin Garay was starting in place of overager Ryan Nie who like Josh Disher earlier in the season was not dressed as the Whalers continue to play one overager over the limit. It's an ugly trend in today's OHL, there seems to be an over abundance of quality netminders floating around. It's great for the league, but unfortunate for netminders like former Rangers' 2nd rounder: Carlo DiRienzo who sit at home anxiously awaiting a trade which may never transpire. Garay put in his bid to be the Whalers' top netminder with a first star performance stopping all 29 of the Rangers' shots on goal through 60 minutes earning first star honours in Kitchener.
The usually supportive hometown Kitchener crowd
started to grow restless, frustrated at the lack of quality scoring chances
generated by an extremely lackluster Rangers' powerplay, there were boos,
their were moans, and then there were the go homes, in the final two minutes
there couldn't have been more than 2,000 fans lingering in their seats,
itching to go to their cars, but hoping that the hometown red, white &
blue might give them a reason to get off of their feet before the anticipated
zeros on the time clock. It wasn't doom and gloom all night long.
The Whalers arrived to Kitchener late and as a result entirely missed the
pre-game skate, at the beginning of the night the bus legs showed, the
Whalers looked a little tired and stiff, but by the midway poitn of the
second period they finally got up to speed. The Rangers took full
advantage in drawing penalties during the first period and parts of the
second slow legs mean more interference and in today's OHL more interference
equates to more minor penalties. Problem was the Rangers' powerplay
wasn't firing on all cylinders.
The Whalers penalty kill entered the game right up there with the league-leading penalty killing prowess of the Rangers who are running at a near-90% clip. That Whalers team played extremely well positionally, in killing off Ranger power-play after Rangers' power-play. The Rangers effective in their own right at stifling the Whalers on man advantages had a more forceful approach, the Rangers at times wouldn't allow the Whalers access into their zone and when the Whalers were able to penetrate the Rangers did not waste any time in sending the puck the length of the ice. Justin Garay was key in this matchup, he took a heavy Jakub Kindl point-shot off of his facemask in the first period, shook it off and then in the third period without hesitation raced out of his net, nearly to the blueline to thwart a potential Rangers' breakaway. At the other end of the ice Dan Turple wasn't busy through the first 30 minutes and with the teams still knotted at zero to start the third period, the Rangers got a bad break. Mike Letizia's shot rebounded off of the skate of one of the Rangers' defenders and past a puzzled looking Dan Turple, soon after Andrew Fournier chipped in a pass from Cory Tanaka giving the Whalers a seemingly unsurmountable 2-0 lead. Late in regulation Tom Sestito tipped a James Neal point shot from directly infront of Dan Turple to close out the scoring.
Two fights, both involving the Rangers' import defenders and unfortunately in close proximity to each other in time. Boris Valabik and Gino Pisellini got tangled up in what appeared to be a hug-fest, and rookie Jared Boll took on Jakub Kindl who was fortunate to slam Boll into the ice after Boll pulled Kindl's jersey over his head, causing a 10 minute misconduct to the lanky Rangers' defender for having his jersey tie-down coming undone. Newcomer: Matt Auffrey looked out of place in terms of being in sync with his new teammates, but otherwise appeared to have some big offensive upside potential. It wasn't just Auffrey who was off-beat, the entire lineup of forwards struggled to keep their legs moving and the lack of continuity across all 4 lines was very evident. It is very fortunate that Matt Lashoff is on his way back to the Rangers' lineup, Boris Valabik was assessed a slew-footing match penalty and will not be available for Sunday's matinee matchup against the Storm, the start of a three game road trip. Duco and McGrath, perhaps snakebitten by a scoreboard trivia question featuring the two Rangers who had points in all of the Rangers 9 games thus far, obviously neither continued their scoring streak ways.