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Rangers finish 2005 on huge high
 


Matt Lashoff sprawls trying to block a Travis Fuller pass in the second period.
Picture Courtesy of: OHLPhotos.com


It's been quite a calendar year for the Rangers.  They started on low when Michael Richards was taken out of action after the World Junior tournament and the team struggled, they finished the 2004-2005 season on a high-note and surprised most OHL media types with their extended playoff run which ended after a 5 game rendez-vous with the power-house London Knights team.  After being picked as early favourites in the current season the Rangers endured a rough October, but December has been a month of change and in some instances domination by the Rangers who's only slip-ups occured in hard-luck losses against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.  This game may have been the greatest victory of the season for the boys in blue, who in two days time will wear white on home ice for the duration of the regular season.  Still for the last game of the 2005 calendar year and the last game of the first half of the Rangers' schedule it gives the team momentum going into 2006, it just may have been the best game the Rangers had during the first half of the season thus far.  The five unanswered goals by the Rangers to complete the comeback seemed to thrill the fans, a surprisingly big crowd with many Kitchener residents still returning from their Christmas vacations.

The Colts were playing their first game back after the Christmas break and in the opening minutes of the game it readily showed.  The Rangers were all over the Colts and through the first half of the period the Rangers held a rather dominant 7-0 shots advantage, and appeared to be taking advantage of a Colts team that quite simply did not have their legs at that point in the first period.  Fortunately for the Colts, their star netminder really held them in the game.  Kory Konecny and Alexander Eaton formerly of the Sudbury Wolves, fought early in the game with both players crashing to the ice early.  In the second half of the period the Colts hit their stride, it appeared as if Mike Roelofsen opened the scoring about 14 minutes in, but the Colts played the role of victims after an early whistle negated the goal.  Undaunted Hunter Tremblay, found himself alone at the side of the Rangers' goal and just managed to beat Turple who attempted to dive to the opposite side of the crease to make the stop.  The Rangers who could have been down a pair, took full advantage scoring on the power play to even the score at one, Matt Lashoff put a nice wrister on net that David Lomas tipped into the top corner, of the net, the goal was in and out very quickly as it got just under the crossbar.
 



David Lomas gets right in on Dan LaCosta during the first period.
Picture Courtesy of: OHLPhotos.com

In the second period the Cotls continued where they left off during the first early in the second period.  Vladimir Nikiforov rushed into the zone with Ryan Hamilton, Nikiforov's shot was mishandled by Turple and unfortunately no one took the trailer Hamilton resulting in the Colts restoration of their lead.  Unfortunately the Rangers appeared a little lifeless during the second period, with so many regulars out of the lineup the Rangers appeared to be facing a little bit of a mismatch for the fully stocked, well-rested, division-leading Barrie Colts.  Problems were compounded when the usually strong Rangers penalty kill sputtered again during the second period.  This time it was a 2-man advantage for the Colts, the Rangers did manage to pick up some big stops to kill of the first penalty, but seconds later Andrew Marshall's point blast ricocheted off the post and directly on the stick of Bryan Little.  The Rangers sagged at this point, the wind appeared to leave the sails of the good red, white and blue ship, and while their netminder had been a little shakey to that point, to his credit Turple refused to allow a back-breaking 4th goal to the Colts.  By the 20 minute mark of the third period we were still awaiting a 4th Colts goal.

Bryan Little took a hooking minor and the Rangers got their glorious comeback chance late in the second period.  Justin Azevedo stepped into a point blast sending the puck straight through into the top corner of the net.  Azevedo would pick up a second goal only 78 seconds later.  Craig Voakes busted in on goal fighting off checks he nearly had a beautiful goal but couldn't quite beat LaCosta who stretched out on the play.  Justin Azevedo simply picked up the puck that was just resting in the crease depositing it in the empty half of the net after Voakes did all of the hard work.  Rookie Nick Spaling who did not dress in Owen Sound, put the Rangers up 4-3, he simply had the puck bounce on to his stick infront on a Rizk shot-like pass infront.  Perhaps the key to the goal was Kory Konecny who made a very strong block at the point, keeping the play on-side and not permitting the Colts to make a much needed long change in the second period.  After the Rangers took the lead, Turple was forced to make a big stop on Hunter Tremblay and Dan LaCosta had to be strong at the opposite end of the ice.

The Rangers seemed to feast on the penalties of local product: Bryan Little, who calls Cambridge his home during the off-season.  Early in the third period Little took his second infraction of the game.  Craig Voakes just missed the net early on the power play chance, but after a quick regroup the Rangers came pouring back into the zone and Lashoff was the catalyst again, a hard blast this time tipped by Mike Duco.  Unfortunately Evan McGrath was injured on a knee-on-knee collision with Michael Root, the next shift after the goal Jean-Michel Rizk and Michael Root dropped the gloves with both combatents hitting the ice early, Root appeared to injure his hand and would not been seen again through the remainder of the game.  Though his knee injury seemed to hobble McGrath, he did manage to score on a sharp give-and-go play with Matt Auffrey minutes later.  With the Rangers up 6-3 McGrath didn't see too much ice through the remainder of regulation.  As bad as any knee injury to McGrath, the Rangers' faithful and team had a bigger scare later in the period when Matt Pepe went down in a pool of blood after taking a follow-through to the face near his eye-area, the prognosis after the game was that Matt Pepe would be okay.  The fan didn't seem impressed with the officials and even less so with the Colts.  After a lengthy stint on the bench of the recently acquired overage winger, Alexander Eaton got onto the ice and immediately made it his business to hit rookie Nick Spaling from behind, earning him an early shower.  Eaton's pressence on the ice may have only been a bad judgement by the Colts' bench that was minus their head coach Williamson who is in Saskatchewan coaching the under-17's.