It's been just over three years, since the Rangers picked up their last post-season shutout, a shocking 3-0 victory over the heavily favoured Owen Sound Attack by Eric Pfligler. Pfligler was a veteran backup netminder who was only intended to play a small role for the Rangers' team. By contrast, the 6'3" netminder: Steve Mason who would tower over Pfligler in the creaes of the Rangers' net is hired gun, brought to Kitchener for a purpose. That purpose being to provide a pressence in the Rangers' net to enable them to win the Memorial Cup in a year where they host the national championship of junior hockey. The Rangers established their dominance in surprising fashion in the opening period. The problem for the boys in blue was that Andrew Perugini, the former Barrie Colts star netminder that was brought in around the deadline similar to Kitchener's Steve Mason to star between the pipes for the Sting. Perugini was sensational during the first period, but much of that may have been due to the simple fact that the Rangers were able to score at will against Plymouth's netminder: Jeremy Smith, whom clearly was not playing in 100% game shape. Perugini was another story altogether for the Rangers to contend with. He combiend lightning-like reflexes with brilliant positioning.
Nick Spaling had half of the building, along
with the goal judge, up and out of their seats thinking that the Rangers
had opened the scoring, but it wasn't to be as his backhand shot the clipped
the post on the way through. It was only one of many chances in the
opening period when the Rangers blasted Perugini, similar to the way they
did with Jeremy Smith in the first period of play. Except, in this
instance, it was a 24-shot performance. Surprisingly it was Mike
Mascioli who broke through in the first period, he was the only Ranger
to score. Mascioli settled a floater pass on the wing while entering
the zone and blasted a shot along the ice that caught the inside of the
post and bounced into the net. The Friday-night crowd of 6677, a
new playoff-high established in the last decade immediately went into a
frenzy. Not to be forgotten at the other end of the ice Steve Mason
was strong in the first, as the Sting could have easily scored a goal or
two themselves, his 14 stops in the opening period was simply overshadowed
by the Rangers' offensive onslaught.
The Rangers' second tally also came from an unlikely source, the Rangers didn't dominate in the second period and with a tie game just a shot away T.J. Battani beat Perugini. Early in the season with veteran winger: Brandon Mashinter goal-less in Mississauga, linemate Mascioli tried to ensure that Mashinter would be credited with a goal, after Mascioli simply poked the puck past the line. The kind gesture didn't work in the end, this was a similar case. Mashinter's hard and high wrister could not be handled by Perugini and when the puck landed in the middle of the crease T.J. Battani, whom was taking Mascioli's place on the Rangers' third line tapped the puck over the goal line. Again, the standing room only crowd got to its' feet and roared in approval. Steve Mason also made some key stops during a second period that had the Sting showing signs of life. By the time the second period rolled around it was obvious that both teams were attempting to bowl over netminders. It started with Didiomete in the first period, and then continued when Mike Duco slid into Perugini in the same period immediately after the puck was covered. Late in the second period with the Sting down 2-0 and looking frustrated DiDiomete took a second penalized run at Mason, intentionally falling on top of the Rangers' star netminder immediately after a stoppage in play.
Despite some very unnecessary penalties by Devin DiDiomete, the Rangers top power play unit was struggling to create quality chances. With only 30 seconds remaining in a power play early in the third period, DeBoer sent his second unit over the boards. Mike Duco would blast a major-league slapper into the top corner, all but assuring victory for the Rangers who are known league-wide for their stingy defense. Little in the way of quality chances for either team despite the Sting outshooting the Rangers 15-10 in the third period. The Rangers kept most of those shots to the perimeter and when called upon Steve Mason was his usual amazing self. The win was the Rangers' 12th in a row over the Sarnia Sting, a streak dating back to early last regular season. It was a rather historical game for the Sting, their first game in a second round since 1997, when they also encountered the Kitchener Rangers. The Rangers are the only team that Sarnia Sting organization has encountered beyond the second round since moving from Cornwall.