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Gutsy effort by Rangers results in late win


Michal Neuvirth and captain Steve Ward have a look behind the net during the third period.


The Whalers probably emerged in Kitchener looking for a little revenge after their 3-0 home loss to the Rangers, John Murray's first OHL shutout.  They got some pucks past Murray, but the best the could muster in an extremely strong road effort was an overtime loss.  The story of the night and perhaps of the weekend had to be the Rangers' forward crew.  On Wednesday (predictably) Mike Duco was suspended by the league for his part in a multi-fight stoppage in play during the Rangers' 8-1 blowout victory over the Guelph Storm, where Duco dropped the gloves with Ryan Potruff while Leigh Salters and Matt Pepe were already engaged in a fight of their own, after a very violent hit by Salters.  The fate of the next two were grossly unpredictable.  Justin Azevedo, had a high ankle sprain while playing in the Team OHL vs. Russia exhibition game, in a series that has taken a very decided turn towards violence.  Most shocking was the fate of Victor Oreskovich, who left the ice in the first period, was benched through the remainder of the period by the Rangers' head coach and general manager for the duration of the period before departing from the building altogether.  Apparently Oreskovich was sent home for disciplinaary reasons, it hurt the Rangers who lost essentially a line's worth of quality forwards.

The Rangers didn't take their time in getting started.  Kevin Henderson was playing on a line with Timmins and Soso, Henderson went into the corner hard after a puck, dug it out to Timmins who centered it on Brian Soso's stick, it wasn't there long as Soso pounded the puck in.  For Soso it was his 2nd goal in two games and 4th of the season, both the 2-game scoring streak and 4 goals are career highs for Soso.  The Soso line lost some of its lustre after their first goal, as Henderson would replace Oreskovich on the top unit with Rizk and Spaling.  Tom Sestito has been a constant thorn in the side of the Rangers and this night was no exception.  Sestito beat John Murray after his shot banked off of the skate of one of the Rangers and into the net, tying the game for the Whalers shortly after the Rangers had taken the lead.  Sestito is more known byRangers' fans for his hitting.  Late in the period John Armstrong found Andrew Fournier right at the side of the net only a single second after the puck was dropped deep in the Rangers' zone.  That goal gave the Whalers a 2-1 lead despite a 17-4 shots on goal deficit.



Heavyweights collide, Jared Boll drops the gloves with Brian Soso during the second period.

In the second period the Rangers' power play connnected, Yves Bastien had an excellent tip from in front of the net, on a high Jakub Kindl point shot, drawing the Rangers even, this coming minutes after Plymouth netminder Michal Neuvirth was rocked by a slapshot that went off of his mask.  Things slowed in the second period, with ice conditions deteriorating and both teams playing a very physical game, notably James Neal who is one of those opponents that you always want to ensure that you keep your head up when he is around.  Another one of the more physical players is Jared Boll, who's proven to be a threat on the scoreboard, with the hitting, and most prevelently with the fighting.  After the Rangers tied the game, he made a point on landing a clean, but late hit on Soso, and soon after the two dropped the gloves for what could be called an uninspired struggle for a pair of tall, strong lanky men who more than likely have a long history considering that their teams used to meet up 8 times per season while Brian Soso was with the Windsor Spitfires.  Early in the third period, the Whalers took a second lead, and this one really appeared to be the one that would stick.  Tom Sestito again was the marksman, he dipped the puck in through the five hole from in deep with ta backhand.

With many of their forwards missing and a shortened bench the Rangers' appeared to be stiffled during the third period, it wasn't just the lack of forwards, but both teams had played a very physical game and it was beginning to show its toll.  The Rangers' power play is in the top third of the league, however, the constant knock on it is that they cannot seem to score during those key moments where they desperately need to score to ither tie to take a lead in the game.  A hooking minor to Sestito with just over 4 minutes left was another opportunity for the Rangers' power play to prove itself during crunch time.  This time Kindl was the one with the hot stick at the point again and he didn't take his time in getting a perfect shot off that Kevin Henderson tipped just slightly infront of the net.  Overtime was looming and despite some excitement on the way there, both teams played entered the final 5 minutes thoroughly exhausted.  It was a case of who wanted it more and with the conservative way that both teams were playing, it appeared that the shootout was the only likely conculsion to this game.  The Rangers did have some advantage since they were able to increase to 3 forward lines of 2 each.  The Aud, one of the oldest buildings in the Ontario Hockey League, hasn't seen a shootout yet, and Jean-Michel Rizk kept it that way.  Jakub Kindl found the Rangers' captain streaking down the wing, Rizk came in and from just inside the faceoff dot, wristed a shot that knuckled under Neuvirth's arm and into the net with less than a minute remaining in overtime, sending the capacity crowd into a frenzy.  John Murray also recorded his first OHL point on the overtime winner.