The finish line is there, it's right infront of them. Since Kitchener has had coach Peter DeBoer at the helm, they've had to deal with this issue pretty much every season. The crippling loss of players to the World Junior Championships. Friday night would be the last night that the Rangers would have to contend without the help of Jakub Kindl or Yannick Weber. Both will be returning from their stints overseas for Tuesday night's game against the Guelph Storm. But, until then there was one game in the Rangers' way. The Brampton Battalion, the very same Battalion who unloaded former Rangers' forward Matt Auffrey just before the new year to Kingston, meaning that the Rangers will likely never see their last departed teammate again in the OHL, since the schedule is over with the Frontenacs barring a collision in the OHL final. The Battalion were coming off of a loss in Belleville two nights earlier where they allowed three very quick Bulls goals before hanging in to make the game close. With the Battalion not looking like much of a threat and Charles Lavigne in need of some work, the Rangers turned to their backup netminder.
While they didn't have the luxury of the power
plays that they had in the first period while in Toronto, the Rangers were
able to appear dominant at times in the opening period. Simply a
case of a very strong forecheck, that at times heamed the Battalion into
their own zone. It didn't take long for the Rangers' to click Matt
Pepe's cross-crease feed found Victor Oreskovich, who slammed the puck
home for the early lead, the goal made Oreskovich the 4th Rangers' forward
to have scored 15 on the season. Early in the second period Robert
Bortuzzo expanded the Rangers' lead with a perfect point blast early in
the period. It was clear that Pitton didn't have a chance on either
of the goals that staked the Rangers' to a 2-0 lead. Justin Levac
tipped a point shot through Lavigne's pads on the power play, after a strong
30 minutes, the Battalion had managed to stay within striking distance
and it was paying off.
After surrendering the power play marker to the Battalion the Rangers noticibly sagged in the second half of the second period. The forecheck, the skating and the drive to the net appeared to be missing. After scoring 3 power play goals in only 7 opportunities in Toronto, the Rangers power play was missing in action on this night, the inconsistent power play has severely hampered the Rangers ability to score and on this night it was their undoing in the end. John Hughes tied the game for the Battalion when he was left infront of the net all alone during a goalmouth scramble, only 11 seconds later veteran winger Luke Lynes burst in and scored to give the Battalion their first lead of the night. Minutes later still with the crowd of 6,100 fans silenced David Lomas' younger brother Mike Lomas struck to give the Battalion a two-goal lead. For the second time this season it would appear that the Rangers would be dropped by one of the basement dwellers in the Central division on home ice, earlier they were dropped by the Majors.
The Battalion sealed in their blueline and for nearly ten minutes straight the Rangers were not able to cross the blueline with the puck on their sticks. With just over three minutes left Peter Tsimikalis found Nick Spaling at the side of the Battalion goal giving the team new life, the goal took place just 6 seconds after a power play had expired. When Phil Oreskovic took an hooking minor with 1:54 remaining, the chances of a thrilling comeback only improved, that manpower advantage was upgraded to a 6-on-3 with Lavigne on the bench an yet another member of the Battalion in the box with 36 seconds left. During the next 20 seconds the Rangers' would load up several point blasts by Dan Kelly and Robert Bortuzzo, but the rookies' shots would fall wide of the mark and eventually time would expire, leaving the Rangers under .500 post Christmas with a 2-3 record.