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Rangers close on conference leaders

Henderson and Gyenes help celebrate a second period shorthanded goal by Nick Spaling.

Outside of the post-season and looking beyond regular season championships, and division banners there's one bit on unfinished business that the Rangers are overdue to attend to.  The Rangers hold an ugly 1-4 mark (with a current four game losing streak to the Storm).  Otherwise, the tough Midwest division, easily the strongest in the league again, this season has been similar to a playground for the Ranger who hold a 10-0 mark against Erie (4 wins), Owen Sound (4 wins) and London (2 wins).  Unfortuantely for the Rangers, this particular game meant little, aside from the two points that allowed the Rangers to close to within a single point of the once division-leading Storm for 3rd overall in the conference and to within 5 of the West-leading London Knights who have been the measuring stick of the entire league since the beginning of October.  On this night the Rangers measured well, but that's often easy to do with the top end of the yard stick snapped off, in the instance of the London Knights, their dynamic duo of Bolland and Schremp being at the World Junior Championships representing Canada and the United States.  Things might not be so simple when the Rangers' have to visit the unfriendly confinds of the JLC on Sunday, a place where the Rangers have dropped 9 straight games (3 playoff games) over the last two season.

But as much as anyone is going to highlight the absence of Bolland and Schremp, the Rangers weren't exactly running a full lineup of players either, and with two of their strongest blueliners on their way back into the lineup, things won't be getting any easier for the Knights, nor Petes as the weekend progresses and the Rangers continue to play the OHL's elite.  The first period of this specific matchup was all Adam Dennis.  Since departing from the ranks of the Storm he's tormented the Rangers, on this night he was the only thing that stood between the Rangers and a one or two nothing lead by the end of the first period.  The Rangers had several big chances as they pressured while on the man advantage, but Dennis was there each time.  It didn't hurt that the Knights got some early whistles in their favour, on the flip side the officials were quite willing to turn a blind eye to the Rangers who crashed the crease often, and Mike Duco even drew an interference infraction against the veteran netminder who didn't appear amused at the situation to say the least

Adam Dennis comes up with a big save in the third.

Just when it appeared as if the Rangers would never score, Evan McGrath finally dug the puck out of the crease to score after a prolonged scramble with several players deperately diving and stabbing at the puck.  The Rangers took a 1-0 lead after the scoreless first period.  The Rangers would have a pair of minute long two-man advantages to take advantage of and extend their lead, the second two-man advantage took place when Evan McGrath received a nasty but accidental high-stick to the mouth area.  The Rangers failed to score while up two men, but Craig Voakes would tip a Matt Lashoff point shot right through Dennis while the Knights were killing the end of high sticking minor (it was a double-minor, the first minor was negated by a Duco roughing penalty).  With Matt Lashoff in the penalty box, Nick Spaling took advantage of Matt Pelech who was attempting to exit the zone on the power play.  Spaling blasted the Calgary Flames draft pick, and then proceeded to beat Dennis for his 4th goal in his last six outings.  The goal brought the Aud to it's feet, and for Spaling it was the second time he forced a defender to make a huge mistake immediately infront of Dennis resulting in an opportunity all alone for the rookie, Drayton native.

The Knights finally got on the board late in the period on the power play Dan Turple made a number of saves, and unfortunately couldn't control any of the rebounds on some of the shots that came from all angles.  Jordan Foreman finally pounced on the rebound and before Turple could really see where the puck had gone, Foreman had it in the top corner.  There was only 1 second remaining in that London power play the only one that the Knights were capable of scoring on out of the 8 man advantages provided by the two officials in this matchup.  The Rangers regained their three goal lead early in the third period when Dan Kelly made a perfect point shot that Matt Auffrey tipped past Dennis.  Late in regulation the Knights switched netminders giving Steve Mason his first game action since the month of September, he didn't see any rubber as the Knights were on the man advantage through the entire time he was in goal.  The change may have been in reference to the abuse that Dennis was seeing in the crease area.  One of the biggest highlights of the night was a tilt between Mike Duco and Jordan Foreman who squared off at centre ice with Duco landing a number of blows.  Evan McGrath was pretty much shut down already suffereing a knee injury, McGrath was hit pretty hard in the face with a high stick.