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Team earns 5th shutout of the year
 


Nick Duff  provides some assistance in goal as Azevedo chops at the puck in close.
Picture Courtesy of: OHLPhotos.com


Last weekend it was Dan Turple at times single-handedly got himself a shutout, both bids failed in the third period.  The third period loss of both the shutout and game in Windsor was especially devastating for the Rangers.  Turple got close at home against the Saginaw Spirit, but again the shutout was broken up in the third period, and some of the big stops by Turple resulted in a dominant win, but not a shutout.  Dan Turple didn't make the cut for the annual OHL All-Star classic, it's a year of the netminder in the OHL.  But despite the Rangers' strength and experience on the blueline, in many games Dan Turple has been the sole reason for the Rangers' keeping close or even winning.  It wasn't a night off by any stretch but the Rangers did smoother the Battalion forwards and the shutout was a huge team effort, not simply Turple standing on his head for 60 minutes.  There were times that Turple spent simply standing in his crease waiting for action in the second half of the game, and Peter DeBoer has one of the league's best defensive corps at his disposal probably wouldn't have it any other way.  Some of the strong defensive effort is out of necessity.  The Rangers are missing a number of players and at the moment the Rangers' top unit centered by Evan McGrath is in a bit of a funk of late.

Without a question the Rangers have found their sweet spot of late.  It's the middle of the blueline for their defenders.  The Rangers' started the game scoring there, ended it scoring there and also potted one in the middle that was deflected from roughly the same spot.  It's a secret that's safe to reveal to Stan Butler and his Brampton Battalion at this point as the Rangers' completed a two game season-sweep over the Battalion and likely will not see the likes of Wolski and Aquino barring an OHL finals matchup.  Despite some of the lack of atmosphere in Brampton it's been a whale of a series.  The Rangers won a pair of games in which they only managed to score three goals.  You could call them superb defensive chess matches, but in all honesty both games had great scoring chances galore.  In Brampton it was Machesney and Turple that were the 2nd and third stars respectfully behind Evan McGrath who look first star honours.  In the return matchup the Rangers' saw a new face in the Brampton net, in backup netminder: Bryan Pitton, he and Turple were 1st and 2nd stars on this night.  While not extremely busy Turple was forced to make a couple of sparkling stops to retain his shutout at the other end, Bryan Pitton after the game's midway point was doing everything possible to prevent a Rangers rout.
 



Evan McGrath tires to draw Pitton off of the near post on a 2nd period Rangers' power play.
Picture Courtesy of: OHLPhotos.com

Surely the Battalion have seen more than enough of the Rangers' rangy plus-sized netminder this season.  After equalling a franchise-high nine goals on home ice in Brampton on Sunday afternoon, Dan Turple was there to stop all 26 shots directed at him by the Battalion's offense that features one of the dangerous line combinations in the league with Wojtek Wolski, Luch Aquino and Aaron Snow sharing the ice.  After a very balanced start to the first period, things got interesting.  With Tomas Stryncl already in the box for cross-check, big Battalion defender: Phil Oreskovic pounded Evan McGrath into the boards, with the arm raised for the delayed penalty, Matt Auffrey feed the puck back to Matt Lashoff, who's point shot from the high point went straight through with David Lomas creating the perfect screen.  Momentum almost shifted 360 degrees immediately afterwards when Wojtek Wolski and Luch Aquino entered the zone shorthanded on an odd-man rush, Wolski feed Aquino who was promptly greeted by Turple at his sprawling best at the top of the crease.  Perhaps it was revenge for the late-game shorthanded marker that Brampton was able to score during the first matchup regardless Turple came up big and perhaps surprised the talented winger enough to gain the edge.

The Rangers' power play seemed to lack potentcy in this matchup, and as a result players like Rizk, Pelech and Valabik saw plenty of time in an effort to try and jump start the team with the man advantage.  Midway through the second period the Rangers had a two-man advantage and really weren't able to capitalize.  It wasn't until the Battalion started trying to bully the Rangers in their crease after a whistle that the Rangers were able to capitalize on the man advantage.  Jakub Kindl's point shot was tipped by David Lomas into the Battalion net for another late period goal to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.  They had several chances including one spectacular one by Lomas who was robbed by Pitton's glove hand when the Battalion's very capable backup looked down and out.  In the third period it appeared as if Jean-Michel Rizk - one of the hot Rangers' forwards of late had scored again, but somehow the puck trickled wide.  With a shutout on the horizon Matt Pepe was able to add a little insurance, after a scramble on a rush, the puck popped out free to the point, Pepe skated quickly into the zone winding up on his way in at middle of the blueline blasting a rocket that beat Pitton for a 3-0 tally as the Rangers were able to hang on to Turple's shutout.