Back-to-back shutouts would have made a pretty neat accomplishment for a Rangers' team that's been pretty much under the microscope after a rough finish to the month of October where they struggled against most of their opponents. The Rangers didn't complete the shutout as the Sting broke up the bid as Ryan McInerney scored with just under three minutes left in regulation on the final Sting power play of the night. But it wasn't until the Rangers' hand was forced and with reserves depleting on the bench that they utilized Ryan Donally as a defenseman on the penalty kill that the Sting were able to finally snap Kitchener's team shutout streak that was closing in on 120 minutes in total. With convincing wins over a pair of foes from the Western Conference's weaker sister division: the west, the Rangers are trying to regain some of the notoriety that they had at season's start when many predicted a possible finish atop the OHL, or at least the Western Conference. With a strong November thus far, and a defense that is blanketing even some of the stronger scoring units in the league, the Rangers still might have to leave a few "while you were out" notes around the league to infrom those who perhaps weren't paying attention that Kitchener has the lowest goals against total in the Western Conference and that is a trend that is continuing to drop of late, regardless of opponent.
It was rather awkward for the Rangers but after
a 3rd star performance and a shutout (his second of the season) starter:
Dan Turple was relegated to door duty on Saturday night. It wasn't
for lack of effort on Friday night, but aside from a poke check on a breakaway
there really wasn't much of a chance to distinguish himself as a good or
even great netminder with the lack of scoring chances that the Spitfires
had. But with the Rangers' confidence in high gear after a convincing
win it was time to get Mark Packwood his first road victory. His
first two career starts on the road didn't exactly fill the young netminder
with pleasant memories and productive wins, both losses, one in Plymouth
in the 2004-'05 seaosn where Packwood didn't last to the midway mark of
the game prior to getting the hook and other start against the OHL-leading
Peterborough Petes in Peterborough where they remain perfect, a 5-1 loss.
Continuing where he left off in Guelph Packwood really started to look
confident as the Rangers' final line of defense in Sarnia, he also looked
very sound technically. The Rangers deserve full marks for taking
the initiative when opportunity called, with a delayed penalty in effect,
Matt Pelech leveled Mike Duco who was driving to the net, creating a full
two minute two-man advantage. Kindl and Azevedo moved the puck around
at the point with the finesse that one might expect from two of the top
pointmen in the OHL, on this night the two sophomore looked as if they
were auditioning for the part. First Justin Azevedo blasted a shot
through that beat MacDougald after some sustained pressure. Things
quickly got worse for the Sting as Policelli took a delay of game penalty
soon after the goal, this time it was Kindl with the point shot and Davis
with the tip out in front and the Rangers had taken full advantage for
their 5-on-3 power plays scoring on both.
The Sting actually limited the damage to the two goals in the first period, in the second they would not be so fortuante. The hometown Sting did have a big chance to reverse the trend, as they started the second period with a length two-man advantage but couldn't capitalize. A pair of Patrick Davis breakaways would break the game open for the Rangers, and what had to be a sign of good things to come was that neither were on the powerplay (something that the Rangers have struggled with). First Cory Konecny, made a picture perfect pass up the middle to Davis who faked a move to the stick side and then managed to out wait the overage netminder and slip it over him while he sprawled trying to cover the net as best as he could with his pad and blocker, no luck as the Rangers lept out to a commanding 3-0 lead. The Sting were nearly given a gift after the Rangers' 3rd goal, but as good as the netminding as the defenders may have been just as good at keeping the puck out. Steve Savor managed to strip the puck from Packwood behind the net and his feed infront of the net was just barely knocked off of the stick of Mashinter in time to avoid a sure goal. Minutes later Matt Lashoff took a penalty while sliding into the post to avoid yet another goal. After a crafty stop by Henderson in the neutral zone, that eventually led to Chad Painchaud (a forward playing the point for the powerplay) dropping the puck to absolutely no one at his own blueline resulting in another Davis breakaway and another Davis goal this time he chose to wrist the puck glove side on the former Petes' netminder resulting in a natural hat trick. Jakub Kindl who's been scoring of late has also avoided breaking his stick. He launched a pair of slappers late in the second the first ricocheted off of the crossbar and then proceeded to land directly on the goal line leading to a whistle, only seconds later he tried another slapper from the line this time beating MacDougald and the posts clean for the Rangers 3rd power play goal of the night.
The goal that may have been most embarassing, but still very positive for the Rangers occured with only 2 seconds remaining in the second period. Kevin Henderson did all of the grunt work, giving the puck to Applebaum who avoided MacDougald's poke check and deposited the puck into the empty net for his first of the season. The line that also included Donally was not only a phsyical pressence all night long but also an efficient offensive pressence, it was nice to see them on the board in this game. Mike Duco closed out the Rangers' power play scoring early in the third period with a clear path to the net Duco looked five-hole and eventually the puck squeezed through the pads of MacDougald and into the back of the net. McInerney and Lashoff (who scored his first of the season) traded goals in the dying minutes of game that was quickly degenerating. The Rangers after taking the 7-0 lead early in the third elected to use their lower scoring forwards and defenders. Unfortunately things would not remain completely civil with time winding down. First, Nicolas Tuzzolino took the instigator in a fight with Rangers' captain Mark Fraser taking exception to a hit that Fraser laid out on a teammate. Only 17 seconds later play was stopped again, during the first fight the remaining officials were able to keep the remainder of the players on the ice civil, this time far too many got involved, first Matt Pepe instigated a fight with Chad Painchaud, but then Michael Haley stepped in to battle with Pepe in mid-fight, Mike Duco joined the mess to restrain Painchaud. Since all of these fights occured within the final 5 minutes, Tuzzolino and Pepe were both ejected. With the officials in charge calling it by the book Matt Pepe ended up with a 24 minutes in penalties on the play including a pair of fighting majors, Michael Haley got the rare three-peat a triple-game misconduct to go along with a 2-5-and-10. Valabik wasn't one to be left out of the fun, he received a 10 minute misconduct while on the bench and was forced to retreat to the locker room early on the same stoppage. For the second straight game the Rangers' power play was a dominant 4-for-11. The loss for the Sting was their 5th straight.