An ugly win - is still a win. It's something that the Rangers' might want to remind their head coach of as they boarded the bus after their first successful three games in three day weekend. That being said, it was the Rangers' first victory in the third game of three this year. With the Rangers playing a league-high 4 Tuesday night games this season. haven't had to deal with the three games in three nights scenario too often this season infact their very first taste occured just prior to the Christmas break when they won the first two against the slumping Sarnia Sting before dropping a 2-1 decision on home ice to the Greyhounds. This time around the Rangers got off to a spectacular start before appearing to simply run out of gas in a disasterous second period. The Rangers, playing in their 9th period in three days, the final frame of this game with the momentum clearly on the side of the Whalers managed to look organized and simply out-work the Whalers in the third to earn precious points in their race to catch the division-leading London Knights. The points were huge in this one as the Rangers' win advanced them to within 2 points of the Knights with one more game played than their conference rivals with the Knights loss in Barrie on the same night. The stakes are high for the Rangers' because finishing second to London will in all likelyhood at this point in the schedule result in a third-place seeding in the conference.
The Rangers did not waste their time in getting
on the scoreboard early in this matchup, Evan McGrath scored taking a pass
from Lashoff to break the ice very early. It was routine, for the
enitre night as the net on the end of the ice with the Plymouth Whalers
bench had 10 of the 11 goals during this night scored on it. It was
consistent with how the periods were played with a strong first, and third
for the Rangers and the Whalers holding the edge in play during the second
period. The Rangers really broke things open at the midway point
of the period. Voakes intercepted a puck and went in to beat Peters.
Exactly one minute later Nick Spaling found Justin Azevedo at the side
of the net and he beat Peters to make the score 3-0 Rangers. It wasn't
the end of the Rangers' chances in the first period, but it was the end
of their scoring. Justin Azevedo shortly after his goal took a breakaway
pass, but ran out of room slamming himself into the post immediately after
his chance was thwarted. Upset with the sloppy play of his team Mike
Vellucci immediately called the timeout to settle his team after the Rangers
nearly made it 4-0 for the Rangers. Undaunted by the Whalers'
timeout the Rangers' had yet another glorious opportunity, a shot handcuffed
Peters' and the rebound was swated at by both teams and ended up resting
on the goal line it was never covered as the net was knocked off, it appeared
to have been knocked off intentionally by the Whalers' defender as he chose
not to reach for the puck, the official did chose to give word to the public
address announcer about his ruling that the puck indeed did not cross the
goal line, and may have been too focus on exactly where the puck was going.
Flackback to January 17th, 2004, nearly exactly two years ago to the day. The Rangers' lead, 3-0 and allowed the Whalers to get back into the gave via the fisticuffs as the Whalers obtained some momentum as well as favourable matchups due to the Rangers' failing to maintain their composure in the middle frame. The Rangers would eventually drop a 4-3 decision to the Whalers on that night. On this night, the many players who were there for that letdown obviously did not learn their lesson. Late in the first period the Rangers' would become undisciplined. Cory Konecny took what only could be defined as a stupid roughing minor after taking a punch at one of the Whalers well after a whistle. Early in the second period the Whalers made him pay, Dan Collins put a shot right under the crossbar that Turple never even saw through an effective screen, the Whalers were on the board with the power play marker. Minutes later John Vigilante took a feed from Derek Merlini and Turple never quite got square to the puck and it skipped under Turple's arm into the bottom corner of the net. Only one minute later, Craig Voakes would get a little lucky while behind the Whalers' net, he'd bank a shot off of Peters' knee and into the net, the unexciting goal was the only one of 11 on the night that was scored at that end of the ice. The Rangers only continued to have penalty troubles in the middle frame, the Whalers again got to within one goal when Gino Pisellini tipped a Mike Letizia shot through the 5-hole from the top of the crease. Immediately after the goal Valabik mugged Pisellini who was the only Whaler to score in Kitchener. The penalties incured on this goalmouth scrum only compounded problems for the Rangers who lost a pair of defenders (Lashoff and Valabik) to 10 minute misconducts and had to kill a 4 minute minor without either. The Whaler game plan was to try and draw Fraser off of the ice to further complicate things, at first it failed as the Whalers took a minor of their own. When the penalty to Collins expired Fournier scored to tie the game, and immediately after that puck went in Fraser cross-checked Collins into the ice in frustration.
In the third the Rangers were looking the possiblity of killing the remainder of Fraser's penatly without 3 of their top 4 defenders. Dan Turple who really struggled in the second period really stood tall early in the third. The Rangers didn't take their time in regaining their composure during the third. With the Whalers on the power play and the Rangers' penalty kill looking focused, Jean-Michel Rizk intercepted a pass at center ice on the opposite side of the benches designed to catch the Rangers while changing, Rizk came into the zone two on one and used the defender as a screen for his hard wrister, Peters never really picked up the shot and his big rebound went directly on to the stick of Rizk who scored his first shorthanded goal of the season - unassisted. The goal turned out to be Rizk's 2nd in as many road games, as the team made it stand with a very strong third period. Craig Voakes effectively sealed the deal with a lazer-beam like blast on an odd-man rush with 3:30 remaining in regulation time, the shot went top shelf on Peters. Voakes would score his 4th of the night (a career-high) on a late power play rebound. Blowing huge leads and continuing to victory despite seemed to be a theme in the OHL on Saturday night as the Colts blew a 3-0 lead against the Knights, at one point the score being tied at 3, winning 7-5 and in Saginaw where the Spirit lead 4-0 over the Ottawa 67's, only to have the 67's take a 5-4 lead before the Spirit won 7-5.