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Thuot: Under Siege

Dan Turple sprawls all out in the second period while lunging across the crease.
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Some things don't change, and those that do, quickly change and then change back again.  Perhaps that's the case with the Saginaw Spirit who came out of the gate flying and since then have cooled off significantly, a playoff spot for the franchise for their first season since moving to Saginaw is still far from a sure thing, something that might sound a little odd for a team that quite litterally with a win on this night would be tied for the lead in their division; and an automatic second place ranking in the standings.  But it's not just a visit from Spirit team that perhaps hasn't found its stride that is in common with some of the Saginaw teams of past years.  It's the shots on goal, in Kitchener over the last three seasons the Spirit have been winless absorbing some absolutely embarassing shot totals against.  This season might just take the cake although the Rangers did take the loss.  The Rangers fired 113 shots at Francois Thuot in both of the Saginaw Spirit visits to Kitchener, the Rangers pounded 51 shots at the former Barrie Colt netminder over the last two periods of this game.  Unlike some of his previous visits to Kitchener where Thuot has not only won the games, but played heroically in doing so, this wasn't Thuot's best effort.  Thuot allowed 3 goals in the first period where the Rangers only managed 14 shots as they were trapped in their own end for much of the period killing penalties.

It's not often as a team that you have to do this but the Rangers had to bail their coach out on this night.  Not their goalie, not a rookie defender who made a mistake on the blueline.  Peter DeBoer took a pair of minors during the first period, both creating two man advantages that the Rangers were forced to kill.  It was an ugly start.  After a slow start in each of their previous two matchups the Rangers brought it early in this one.  Evan McGrath came out from behind the net and attempted to jam the puck in wraparound style, however the puck was left sitting precariously in the crease infront of the opposite end of the net.  Matt Auffrey simply charged the net and slapped the puck past Thuot for the early lead.  After that things got ugly, the Rangers found themselves down 2 men in 4 different instances, including one that lasted a full two minutes with Boris Valabik and Matt Lashoff trapped in the box, Mark Fraser was a scratch due to injury leaving the Rangers' blueline at that time; especially a little "green-looking."  It took about 7 full minutes, but the Rangers' fought their way out of the mess, killing five minor penalties in the process.  The Rangers' power play was somewhat more effective, it took 30 seconds before Craig Voakes scored to give the Rangers a 2 goal cushion.

Spirit defenders blocked many of the shots directed at the net, even more found their mark through traffic making life
hard for netminder Thuot who lost for the first time in three starts in Kitchener.
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Azevedo would be the next Ranger to strike.  Only a couple of minutes after Voakes' goal that took a couple of efforts to finally put in the net, Azevedo put a shot in on the power play that was so quick in and out that it proved that referee Ian Smith had more than one sense (hearing - in reference to the bench minors assessed to Rangers' coach Peter DeBoer) operating at higher levels.  Justin Azevedo picked up the puck on the left wing and hesitated, not making his routine one-timer and electing to sit the puck down and then blast a rocket shot into the top corner of the net that struck off of the inside of the post and exited the net just about as quickly.  Azevedo wasn't done there, he also scored on a nice setup from Nick Spaling for his 2nd of the game and 21st of the season for the 17-year-old sophomore centre.  Matt Lashoff continued the dominance with another goal only 37 seconds later, the Rangers had jumped out to a 5-0 lead.  They continued to pour on the pressure as the forecheck came at the Spirit in waves and only Thuot prevented things from getting much worse than they already were.  In all the Rangers pounded 26 shots at the Saginaw net.

For the second time in three days an extremely strong effort by Dan Turple was broken up in the third period.  Earlier in the game he went down blocking one side of the net with his left leg and then took away the other half with the back of his right leg in a great exhibtion of his agility.  In the third he did go coast to coast but, couldnt' get over in time to stop Asselin who was the second player to break up a Turple shutout in ony 3 days.  Jean-Michel Rizk who has been on a tear of late now that he's both comfortable with the team and perhaps most importantly looking healthy after injuring his knee in Sault Ste. Marie when he was tackled by Andrew Shennan.  After the Spirit broke up the shutout big Rizk came into the zone two-on-one and released a wicked wrist shot that went in over Thout's blocker for his 7th of the season, Turple got revenge in his own special way in getting an assist on the tally.  The only Saturday night game of the year was alumni night, highlighted by the appearance of Sandy Fitzpatrick Kitchener's first ever team captain.  McGrath's 4 assists in a first star effort marked back-to-back 4 point nights for the Rangers' leading scorer who with 84 points is on pace to be the first Ranger since Trevor Gallant in 1993-'94 to eclipse the 100 point mark, Gallant had 119 points.