Apparently there wasn't much left in the tank after Thursday night. The Rangers and Knights while in a dog fight for the top spot in the Western Conference appear to have let it all loose in their head-to-head matchup in London on Thursday. The Otters on the other hand were playing some desperate hockey as the Soo Greyhounds had extended their lead for the 8th and final playoff spot to 8 points and the schedule quickly running out on both clubs. The Rangers had taken 9 straight over the Otters including 4 straight to eliminate Pennsylvania's only OHL team during the 2005 post-season and then following that effort up with 5 consecutive wins over the Otters during the current season. The Otters were able to buck a few trends, and the Rangers failed to win their 10th consecutive game overall dropping a 4-1 decision to their bitter rivals. The streak may have not been as impressive as the one that continued throughout the 2002-2003 season, but the overall effect on the Otters could be worse. The win over the Rangers may have been a turning point for Dave MacQueen's team as the Otters also snapped their franchise-high 9 game home losing streak the very next night.
After a very tough night in London, for both
of the Rangers' big men, each got the night off in Kitchener. The
Rangers' penalty, entered the game as the league-best with a success rate
of over 88%, arguably buoyed by their two big guys and potentially most
valuable penalty killers in Boris Valabik and Dan Turple, Valabik was not
available for use as he was scratched as he was quite bruised up and Turple
got the night off after struggling through the Rangers matchup in London
with an injured leg. Discipline was an issue early, the Rangers took
4 minors within 2:07 at the midway point of the first period and it costed
them. Andrew Hotham's point shot was deflected by Michael Blunden
though Mark Packwood who was getting a rare start in goal for the Rangers
to open the scoring on a two-man advantage. Things only got worse
as the Rangers would find themselves down two men for an excessive amount
of time afterwards and could be considered lucky to escape with only the
one goal against. The goal against and 5,926 fans who were extremely
vocal in voicing their displeasure with official Sean Reid early in this
Early in the second period, red-hot sniper David Lomas brought the Rangers back even with his 24th of the season. Lomas effectively used his size and strength to maintain position in front of the Otters' net and slam home a rebound. All seemed okay for the Rangers. But not so much for netminder Mark Packwood, he had a rough luck start against the Generals and that string of poor fortunates followed him into this game. Bret Nasby came in on the wing and his weak wrister on the rush deflected off of the stick of the Rangers' defender and handcuffed Packwood who had trouble locating the puck. This only minutes after the Rangers' had tied the game. At the other end the Rangers had some spectacular chances thwarted by overage netminder Josh Disher who stopped 41 of 43 overall and has started each of the last 17 head-to-head matchups against the Rangers, and during that stretch has provided Rangers' head coach DeBoer along with his team some headaches along the way.
In the third period Sean O'Connor and Derrick Bagshaw combined to put the Otters' up by two goals. Bagshaw had just finished serving a minor for delay of game, which as it turned out created some spectacular chances for the Rangers' to tie the game, the two had a two-on-one working with tired Rangers' defenseman and the result was a back-breaking goal against the Rangers. Roughly two minutes later, Michael Blunden scored his second of the night also on the power play to put the icing on the cake. It was unfortunate because the Rangers with a win would have taken over first in the Midwest division, those watching the out-of-town scores would have noted a 3-0 score for the visiting Whalers in London. Forwards Mike Duco and Victor Oreskovich were still struggling to regain their form after being laid up with shoulder injuries up front.