A win over the 8th place Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, hardly ground breaking for a Kitchener Rangers' team that has flirted with first place overall in the OHL. But to the Rangers, it was record-breaking, and the single most important component of that record was the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, a team whom defeated the Rangers during each of their last 3 head-to-head meetings, comprising all but one of the entire season-series. You see the Rangers had defeated all of the other 18 teams in the league, and only needed a single win against the Greyhounds to ensure that they would record a win against each of the OHL's 19 other teams. Each of the last three season's the Rangers have defeated 18 of the 19 teams in the league, this year marks the most teams that the Rangers were able to defeat in a single regular season. It's not as if the Rangers' weren't due for a victory over the Greyhounds. A trio of close losses including a shootout loss while on the road in a game where the Greyhounds led 3-0 before the Rangers rallied back to force overtime. Dan Turple has started an finished each of the four regular season games against Greyhound standout: Kyle Gajewski. Mark Packwood did make a brief appearance in the first head-to-head matchup.
The Rangers came out flying in the first period.
They also came out hitting, it's the physical aspect that may the magical
missing element in many of the Rangers' games of late, including many wins.
That physical aspect to the Rangers' team game played played a huge part,
in the Rangers' rollercoaster-like playoff run which lasted much longer
than many expected that it would. Especially when matched up against
the Owen Sound Attack, who had the second best record in the entire OHL,
the Rangers' dispatched them in only 4 games in the second round.
The Sting appeared to leave the Greyhounds ill-prepared for the Rangers'
speed, forecheck and overall pressure on the puck, having played them on
the previous night. Fans were delighted early in the game when Rangers'
head coach elected to experiment with Valabik standing infront of the opposition
netminder. Fans laughed and applauded as the Greyhounds attempted
in vain to move one the OHL's biggest players. They would only use
Valabik for a single shift with the team already sitting shorthanded in
the defense department with captain Mark Fraser sitting out with the flu.
Valabik wasn't able to help the Rangers' score when he was on the ice, but inadvertantly he helped the Rangers' break open the scoring later on in the period when he resisted temptation, and despite being hit up high by Greyhounds' rookie tough guy: Alex Penner refused to let his temper get the best of him, during the seemingly never ending scrum, Valabik was key in starting up a two-man advantage for the Rangers, with the Greyhounds being assessed three penalties to the Rangers' one on the very same stoppage. After a period of dominance the Rangers' were finally rewarded. The Greyhounds never did clear the zone during the entire duration of the power play until Azevedo was able to score stepping in from the point and blasting a shot that beat Gajewski who was screened on the play. It was one of many opportunities that could have gone past Gajewski as fans appeared to be getting anxious. Early in the second period, the tables were turned as the Rangers temporarily went down 5-on-3, but this time as the first penalty expired Justin Azevedo stopped a point shot and was able to put Matt Auffrey several zones in the clear for a shorthanded breakaway coming out of the penalty box. Matt Auffrey was the only Rangers' shooter to beat Gajewski in the shootout loss in Sault Ste. Marie and on this night made it look easy sneaking the puck around the OHL's leader in games played by a netminder.
Later in the period the Rangers officially broke it open. Yves Bastien used his speed on the outside blasting into the Greyhounds' end, he used the backhand to find Myles Applebaum tape-to-tape and Applebaum made little mistake in scoring his 5th goal of the season. With the Rangers' leading by three against one of the OHL's lowest scoring teams who were missing one of their premier players, attention turned to the Rangers' shutout. The Rangers' at times during the third period did not play as if they were protecting a shutout. The Rangers took many infractions and after dominating on the shotclock 31-11 through two periods, they were outshot 14-6 in the third period. The Rangers were able to tack on just one more goal, Matt Auffrey's second of the game to make the score 4-0, and Dan Turple was able to preserve his shutout, his 6th of the season, tying the franchise-team-high for the Rangers, with the 2001-2002 team that featured 6 shutouts by Scott Dickie and Matt Harpwood (3 each). It seems unlikely that the Rangers will ever catch the London Knights at this point, and it is impossible for the 4th-place Storm to catch the Rangers at this point. Dan Turple stopped a shorthanded breakaway by the Greyhounds in the second period. The Rangers penalty kill was a perfect 10 for 10. The Greyhounds on the other hand have lots to play for, they entered the game 8th in the conference, but only 4 points shy of the division lead, and with an obvious motivation to put points up to avoid a first-round matchup against the London Knights.