GLANBROOK 7, NIAGARA 3
NIAGARA FALLS (Mar. 23) — Patience is a virtue. So is determination. When mixed in the right proportions, they’re an unbeatable combination. The Glanbrook Rangers displayed both of those qualities in abundance as they scored a dominating 7-3 triumph over the Niagara RiverHawks to take a 2-0 lead in their Bloomfield Division semifinal series.
The Rangers set the tone early. Riding an emotional wave after their stirring 3-2 victory in Game 1, they tenaciously stormed the offensive zone, pressuring the RiverHawks defenders and bombarding goaltender Tanner Richardson, who got the call in place of Game 1 starter Bryce Frechette. Justin Vermeulen picked up where he left off in the opener (he scored the decisive goal late in the third period) and gave Glanbrook a 1-0 lead at 15:53 of the first period.
“We came out hard and we came out fast,” said Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait. “We knew we wanted to take it to them right off the bat.”
The Rangers actually appeared to score earlier when Ethan Cloutier chased a loose puck in the goalmouth and jammed it into the open net. But the referee, miles away from the play, whistled the puck dead even though Richardson never had it under control and it was free the entire time. But be that as it may.
The RiverHawks, as is their habit, despite being badly outplayed (they didn’t register a shot on goal until the midway point of the period), refused to quit — at least for the time being — and managed to stay within range of Glanbrook, tying the game on a point shot from Giacomo Cotrufo that was either screened or deflected or both and found its way past Rangers’ netminder Tiago Rocha.
But patience started to play its part in the Ranger scenario when centre Terry Bridgland engineered a two-on-one break with winger Sean Golebiowski. With the seconds ticking down, Bridgland didn’t panic, but calmly waited until the opportune moment to send a cross-ice pass that Golebiowski one-timed past Richardson to restore the Rangers’ lead.
The pesky RiverHawks retaliated shortly after play resumed in the second period as Nick Duguid redirected another Cotrufo point shot behind Rocha. But that was it. The Rangers followed that with a scoring spree, netting five unanswered goals. The RiverHawks, showing the effects of playing their third game in four nights and, beset by the Rangers’ attack, took penalties that resulted in two Glanbrook power-play goals by Daniel Vella (at 4:28) and Vermeulen (at 6:13), his team-leading third of the playoffs.
Ryan Burke outhustled a Niagara defender while killing a penalty and desposited a shorthanded tally behind Richardson at 11:59 and Cooper Hood finished off the frame with a breakaway goal after being set loose on a laser-like pass from Vella. Owen Johnston rounded out Glanbrook’s total with a flashy individual effort at 11:04 of the third period.
Meanwhile, the patience part of the Rangers winning equation had come into prominence. The sagging RiverHawks opted for a strategy of trying to sneak in behind the Glanbrook defence, using the larger ice surface at the Gale Centre to try to find open seams. But the Rangers’ defence was having none of that, clogging up the neutral zone to thwart any potential threats and, in the defensive zone, keeping danger to the periphery as Rocha held down the fort.
“We were playing a little tighter on defence,” said Tait. “Paying more attention to detail. Mainly, we just played hard and took it to them in all zones.”
And, of course, Glanbrook’s penalty-killing platoons were once again almost impregnable, particularly over the final two frames when the Rangers were assessed nine penalties (many of them of the head-scratching variety). Hunter Willis did manage a power-play goal at 15:23, but by that point the RiverHawks were done, and although they tried to goad the Rangers (particularly Golebiowski, who was a constant target), the visitors refused to bite.
“Our discipline was the key in this game,” said Tait. “We stayed disciplined, we stayed away from the stupid stuff. We came here ready to go and we put together a full 60 minutes.”
NOTES: Rocha made 23 saves for the win and was particularly effective in the third period when Niagara outshot Glanbrook 13-4 … Burke’s shorthanded goal was Glanbrook’s second of the playoffs. The Rangers were 2-for-4 on the power play. … Rocha earned an assist on Golebiowski’s goal.