They aren't exactly keeping pace with the Knights' of late, but make no mistake about it the Rangers are road warriors. They have 88 points, and 46 of them are on the road. The Rangers with three games remaining on the road sit just 1 win shy of their franchise record for road wins in a season with 22 (record is 23) and only 4 points back of their record for road points in a season with 46 (record is 50), both of these records were set during their 2002-2003 championship season. As it stands the Rangers are currently peaking on the road where they have won 10 of their last 11 and six straight. Their only remaining road matchups are with the division, in Guelph, Erie and London. With the stakes high for each of those three teams, making the franchise marks will prove difficult. In Saginaw, at times, especially during the second period the Rangers made things look easy.
The Spirit were probably still smarting from the Rangers' performance earlier in the calendar year when they dominated on the shot clock, with the Rangers pounding 65 shots at Francois Thout. It's really not fair, but in the 4 games that the Rangers have played against the Spirit, rookie netminder: Ryan Daniels has come out victorious in his only game despite allowing 4 goals against. Francois Thuot hasn't been nearly as fortunate, after besting the Rangers, 4-2 in September, Thuot has lost his last two decisions to the Rangers. In those three games combined Thuot has faced 153 shots. He's shown an ability to hold the Spirit in the game, but of late he hasn't been able to wear the superman cape as he did earlier in the season in Kitchener defeating the Rangers. The Rangers' road win helped them even the season-series after a pair of losses to the Spirit earlier in the season.
In this matchup the Rangers did their best
to silence the 5,389 in attendance (a high for any Ranger game played at
the Dow in Saginaw), the game was televised and for the first time ever
the fans were looking towards the end of the season with anticipation of
playoffs, a number of fans in one section chose to celebrate by holding
up letters spelling "SPIRIT PLAYOFFS," at the same time game day staff
was doing it's best to keep Saginaw fans boisterous with thunderstix along
with a group circling the mid walkway encouraging fans to cheer on their
hometown Spirit. Despite the negative result for the Spirit whom
have never won a season-series with the Rangers in four seasons, it was
probably seen as a positive to have a very excited crowd on hand for their
only televised game of the season.
The Rangers went down early in this game, Garrett Sinfield's point shot beat Dan Turple and the Spirit had their early lead. The first period, seemed to feature two very hesitant teams. The Rangers after their loss to the Storm the previous night appeared to close up their game and avoid taking chances, the Spirit on the other hand may have been a little eager to impress their one of their loudest and biggest crowds of the season. There were no slurpees on this night as the teams couldn't come close to the required 7 or 11 goals, but it was 60 minutes of entertaining hockey. Each of the two Spirit power plays during the first period were cut short by penalties of their own while on the power play, and despite the two official system only 11 power plays were dolled out, none resulting in a power play goal for either team.
The Rangers really got going in the second period and had to rely on their netminder to make some big stops in what was a wide open period in comparison to the first period. The Rangers didn't take any time in finally getting on the board, David Lomas parked himself infront and managed to pound in a rebound. Craig Voakes then took a breakaway at the midway point of the second period, and just barely managed to beat Thuot, minutes later Voakes was on the board again. Michigan might be a good destination for Voakes who has scored 6 goals in his last two visits combined, including a 4 goal effort in Plymouth. The worst possible scenario for a netminder would have to be little work and then some odd man rushes. That's exactly what Dan Turple got, the Rangers did get on the board during the second period, but their wide-open style of play also left them open to a number of Saginaw breakaways, forcing Turple who struggled the night before to come up with some big stops.
Turple wasn't the only player out there thwarting Saginaw scoring chances. When Gimblett took a breakway, Boris Valabik simply kicked it up into high gear and used his speed to make up the ground and steal the puck. Valabik's closing speed may be one of the most underrated attributes of any player in the OHL. Kevin Henderson was out on the ice just flying around, as was Jean Michel Rizk, Henderson was nearly rewarded with a shorthanded tally for his efforts. Rizk may have been playing his last game in a building that he called home for the better part of three seasons. In the third period the Rangers simply threw a blanket over the Spriit, sucking the life out of Mid-Michigan's only OHL franchise, the Spirit did get their netminder out but neither team was able to score. All four goals in this matchup were scored at the same end.