There's been a long war of words brewing. It's finally time to settle things on the ice. John Murray, the coveted free-agent netminder (probably the most sought after player by the OHL this year) elected to snub the Otters' offer to play out of his hometown state and elected to join the Rangers. There's been much made in the papers about feelings on both sides of the coin, Murray towards the Otters and moreso the Otters' towards Murray. Simply put, John Murray's decision could be seen as a notion that he's potentially "too good" for the Otters, a team that finished, on a sour note missing the post-season for the 2nd time in four seasons. Regardless, it's rarely the case, but it's something that was blatently obvious from the stands. Justin Hodgman motioned vigourously towards the Rangers' netminder after the Otters' first goal in the second period. Not to be left out of the fun Murray returned the favour minutes later when he robbed the Otters of what appeared to be a sure goal on an odd man rush, it was not convincing second period for the Rangers, despite a 18-8 shooting advantage. Simply put the Rangers after allowing only 4 shots through the first 25-plus minutes, the Rangers' started allowing some odd-man advantages and quality breaks for the Otters' offensively. In the end John Murray may have done what Mark Packwood wasn't capable of just one week earlier. Murray wasn't always busy, but he was extremely sharp when called upon, and this game despite the horrible start for the Otters', they were never really out of this game. The Otters also made it their business to get in close to Murray when he ventured outside his goal causing several spills.
The horrible start, that we're referring to,
involved a trio of Rangers goals in a 170-second span less than 4 minutes
into the game. Victor Oreskovich opened the scoring 39 seconds in
on an odd-man rush, that goal brought about a career milestone for third-year
player: Mike Duco who notched his 100th career point with an assist.
Then the Otters got themselves into penalty trouble, and the Rangers' found
themselves up two men on back-to-back occasions. On the first of
those two occasions, Jean-Michel Rizk who was playing in his first regular
season game while sporting the 'C' on his jersey managed to get his stick
on a puck infront of the net and suddenly the Rangers' were up 2-0 with
fans still settling into their seats. Rizk led the Rangers in pre-season
play with 3 power play tallies and his pressence was sorely missed in the
3-2 loss to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds while the Rangers were playing
with the man advantage. Exactly one minute later with one of two
Otters' penalties set to expire newcomer Yannick Weber's point blast found
it's way into the top corner of the net giving the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
The goal seemed to stun Ludzik, like many Midwestern division netminders
is taking over the starting role this season (suffice to say all of the
Midwestern netminders are taking over the starting roles this season).
Fortunately Weber's parents were in attendance, for his first career OHL
goal, unfortunately he was injury after a heavy check into the corner later
in the period, ending his night prematurely.
Weber's injury, similarly to the first Rangers' game, left the blueline a little thin. Sure Jakub Kindl was back in action, but he had played just the night before, and did have to drive himself all of the way back into town from Detroit to make the start on this night. At times the youngsters struggled given the increased responsiblity on the ice. Robert Bortuzzo was one of the youngsters who benefited from increased ice time something that DeBoer hasn't been shy about doing early in seasons with younger players in the past, he also saw some powerplay time as well. Much like the netminders, the plan must have been to have the Rangers' young defenders rotate on a constant basis in order to best evaluate them, aftter the latest blow to the Rangers' blueline, they will be down to the minimum six who will be healthy, for a tough weeekend that ventures up to Owen Sound and concludes in Guelph on Sunday afternoon.
For the Otters, they were at their best in the second period, waiting for the opportunities and then seizing them. A Jakub Kindl giveaway while on the power play led to a two-on-one for Hodgman and Vatri who made little mistake passing the puck across the crease eventually concluding in a goal barely slidding the puck under the pad, that John Murray attempted to stretch and cover with. Minutes later the Otters' had a similar rush, but this time Murray kicked out the opportunity with a spectacular toe stop. He had to huge saves in the second period which kept the Rangers in the lead. Minutes into the third period with Dan Gyenes in the box, the Otters' struck on the power play after a long goalmouth scramble around John Murray who did make several stops, suddenly the Rangers lead has wilted away to a single goal. Fortunately the boys in blue had other plans. Victor Oreskovich and Nick Spaling made some beautiful passes prior to Mike Duco's slam dunk at the corner of the net. Oreskovich who had 3 points on the night, nearly was credited with a fourth, however his empty net goal late was nulified by video replay that ruled that the net was knocked off by a sliding Erie player moments earlier.
Adam Zamec made his first start in a Rangers' uniform and in what looked like was going to be a chaotic first period was involved in one of two fights that resulted after big skirmishes along the boards. Dan Gyenes, late in the first took 19 minutes in penalties after his scrap with Otters' veteran defender Josh Kidd. While the Rangers should be commended for holding the Otters to 1 for 10 on the powerplay, their own power play continues to struggle running at a clip far below 20% effectiveness. Coach Peter Sidorkiewicz was rewarded when he let Ryan Ludzik battle through the game after the tough start, the former netminder himself took over the coaching position after Dave MacQueen was fired at the end of last season. Ludzik was good, but the Rangers much like the troubles they had with Gajewski a week earlier were often guilty of simply not being on the mark with their shooting.