GLANBROOK 4, GRIMSBY 0
GLANBROOK (Apr. 12) — Mission accomplished: Phase 1 complete. The Glanbrook Rangers attained their crowning achievement, the championship of the South Bloomfield Division. And they did it emphatically, dramatically, fantastically, with a 4-0 triumph over the Grimsby Peach Kings in Game 5 of the division final.
The Rangers will now await the result of the Doherty Division final between the Wellesley Applejacks and the New Hamburg Firebirds for their next challenge, the South Conference title, which they hope will ultimately lead to a berth in the Schmalz Cup tournament for PJHL supremacy.
For now, however, they’ll bask in the glory of the moment, a division crown, the team’s first since the 2017-18 season. As John McDonald, director of hockey operations, told the players amid the post-game revelry: “You guys now have a memory. You will remember each other and this moment for the rest of your lives.”
This one wasn’t about x’s and o’s. It wasn’t about systems, or lines. It was all about heart and soul; grit and determination; sacrifice and support. It was about blocking shots, and battling in corners, and pushing through scrums and never giving up or giving in.
It was an all-for-one-and-one-for-all exhibition … and it was doggone entertaining.
“I thought our depth and character showed very well toward the end of the series when we lost (Sean) Golebiowski,” said Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait of the team’s captain who was automatically suspended for two games after receiving his third goaltender interference penalty of the season in Game 3. “As important as he is to our lineup, we needed other guys to step up in his absence, and I felt that we got that from multiple players. Things got a little testy after the Game 4 loss, but again our leaders had a chance to calm the waters, and re-shift the focus on Game 5.”
In the aftermath, the details scarcely matter, except as a record of fact. Terry Bridgland, Cooper Hood, Eric Bridgwater and Owen Johnston were the goal scorers for Glanbrook. Tiago Rocha turned aside 31 shots to earn his eighth post-season victory and his first shutout.
But behind these elements were the intensity and total commitment displayed by the Rangers from start to finish. They relentlessly pursued the Peach Kings deep in their zone and hustled back just as hard to defend their own. They skated with ferocity. Sometimes, it’s true, their enthusiasm might have been a bit too reckless – the defensive zone demons that possessed them in the previous game (a 5-3 loss in Grimsby) weren’t completely exorcised.
But, backed by the rock-solid work of Rocha, they always managed to rein it in and re-establish control. Never was that more evident than in a crucial span in the second period when the Rangers were shorthanded for a full six minutes while defending a tenuous 2-0 lead. Their successful escape from that predicament was rewarded when Bridgwater delivered the elusive third goal late in the third period that effectively sealed Grimsby’s fate.
Johnston added an empty-net goal in the waning seconds, and the long-awaited and well-earned celebration was on, with family and friends and fans – and, of course, Golebiowski, who donned his uniform and joined his teammates on the ice to accept the championship trophy.
Amid the festivities, perhaps the most poignant episode came when Ranger players took time to console former teammate and current Grimsby netminder Nolan Verardo, who came on in relief of injured starter Nico Balice and whose heroics almost single-handedly kept the Peach Kings in the hunt.
The ultimate prize, the Schmalz Cup, is still on the Rangers’ radar — a trophy they last won in the 1999 season, so it will be back to business soon … after a welcome, but brief break.
“We’re prepared to play the best team that we have played all season, because we know from here on out we will be facing champions,” said Tait. ” And as much as we don’t know about the other team, they don’t know about us, either. But I will admit we have had coaches going to games in New Hamburg and Wellesley to get an idea of what’s to come, and we will take that information and put it to work at our practices. We will prepare as best as we can, but at the end of the day we know that we will need to bring it each and every shift.”
And the Rangers are hoping that their fans will come along for the ride.
“I just want to say how great our fans have been,” said Tait. “It was awesome to see so many people on the ice celebrating with the team after the win, and I must admit I felt that in Game 4, we felt that we had more fans in the stands than Grimsby, which is something that just doesn’t happen in their rink. I hope people can continue to come out and help support the team, as we have accomplished phase 1 of the three-phase goal.”