The Rangers' dominance over the Erie Otters lacks mystique or mystery. The Kitchener crew has taken 8 straight since the first round of last spring's playoffs, but there has been little mystery as to how or why. In four games this season, the Rangers' power play has been striking at a near 32% clip (12 for 38) while the Otters have been frustrated to the tune of 2 goals on 37 opportunities (a lowly 5%), those 10 extra power play goals have been the difference between winning and losing for both clubs as each of the 4 games thus far this seaosn have been close including a pair that have gone into overtime (something that Kitchener and Erie fans are more than familiar with after the two clubs have played overtime periods in exactly 5 of their last 10 meetings including a pair of post-season games that went well into the night. The bigger mystery is what exactly is wrong with the Otters of late, the loss against the Rangers was the 7th straight for the Otters contributing to their fall in the OHL standings they are currently wedged in the Midwest basement with 24 points, the struggles this season with the veteran roster have hurt attendance figures in Erie, as they are currently averaging several hundred less fans per game in a league where attendance in most arenas is steadily climbing especially within the Midwest division. The announced crowd of 3895 is still strong by OHL standards.
Early in the first period newcomer David Lomas
went to work on the power play infront of the Erie net. With the
Rangers playing a short two-man advantage, Lomas managed to beat Disher
just as the first penalty expired to give the Rangers a very early lead.
Next, it was the Rangers' turn to kill a 50 second two man advantage, Justin
Azevedo was caught tripping over the blueline amidst boos by frustrated
fans until they realized that the infraction was going towards the Rangers
for diving. Kitchener as they have been most of the season relied
on their big men to kill this key power play, Valabik was left on the ice
for nearly 2 full minutes straight and Dan Turple was active and sharp
when called upon. Josh Kidd scored for the Otters', his point shot
a light wrister found the top corner of the net beating Turple who was
screened as the shot found the back of the net. The Rangers went
to work on the man advantage later in the period and this time it was Mike
Duco who took a Kindl point shot rebound and banged it home regaining the
lead for the Rangers. In the final minute of the first period, a
pair of coincidental minors with Lashoff picking up a hooking minor and
Palmieri of the Otters going to the box for the period's second diving
minor much to the dismay of Otters' fans.
Early in the second period the Otters knoted the score at 2 a piece, Tyler McKinley who was acquired from the Greyhounds for the rights to Andrew Shennan went to the net with rugged rookie Anthony Peluso and batted the puck past Turple tying the game for the second time for the Otters. With a tight score, both teams fought for space and only minutes after tying the game, the Otters appeared to have taken the lead pounding the at the puck that Turple was trying to cover at the side of the net. The puck never did enter the net, but the play did result in a rather big melee infront that eventually ended up in the corner with all 10 players scraping and several throwing punches, two aside were dispatched to the box including a pair of fighting majors to Kitchener's Kevin Henderson and Erie's rookie centre: Justin Hodgman. McGrath gave the Rangers' their third lead of the game when he snapped a wrister just under the crossbar very late in the second period. After a centre-ice collision, Valabik was caught up ice and Palmieri fed Bagshaw directly infront of the net and while there were still some confusion around centre ice Bagshaw scored his 3rd of the season not even a full minute after Kitchener had just taken the lead.
The Otters started taking it to the Rangers in the third period, and Turple had to be big for the Rangers, he made one spectacular sliding stop with fans chanting his name throughout the building and Otters buzzing all around the Rangers' goal. He also made a huge glove stop deflecting the puck high and into the glass when it appeared to be ear-marked for the top corner just under the crossbar. The biggest chance occured on the final Rangers' powerplay of the evening when he stopped a clear breakaway. The penalty kill had to come up big with the crowd screaming and a chance to end the game prior to overtime when Dan Gyenes took a tripping minor with only 2:22 on the clock. The Rangers had their chance on the man advantage in overtime, but failed to score on the 4-on-3 or even generate much. The Rangers entered their second shootout ever, and started with the only player who had success in their first ever shootout in Sault Ste. Marie. Matt Auffrey who was successful against the Greyhounds was stopped by Disher, as was McGrath who tried to shot. Craig Voakes made a really nice move on Disher for the only goal of the shootout and at the other end Dan Turple stoned Blunden, O'Marra, and O'Connor who shot for the Otters, each of the Erie players went for the deke and Turple stayed with them. As a result Turple was the game's top star. Michael Blunden who's caused the bulk of the damage againts the Rangers' this season was held scoreless, but it was Ryan O'Marra who had the bulk of the quality scoring chances for the Otters and was frustrated by Turple. Kindl now has 4 consecutive multi-point games, he played despite taking a puck to the face a night earlier, he has 11 points in his last 4 games.