GLANBROOK 4, GRIMSBY 2
GLANBROOK (Apr. 9) — Terry Bridgland kick-started the offence and the Glanbrook Rangers rode the momentum all the way to a 4-2 victory over the Grimsby Peach Kings and a near-stranglehold 3-0 lead in their Bloomfield Division Final series.
The Rangers now have the opportunity to sweep the series with a win in Game 4 on Tuesday, Apr. 11 at Peach King Arena (7:30 pm). But they’ll have to try to do that without the services of forward Sean Golebiowski. The Rangers’ captain and leading scorer was assessed a goaltender interference penalty in the first period, his third of the season, which carries with it a mandatory two-game suspension.
Bridgland, meanwhile, set the tone for the game by netting his first goal of the playoffs just 53 seconds after the opening faceoff, a perfect start that picked up where the Rangers left off in Game 2 when they fell behind early and finished strong for a 4-2 win.
“We knew after (Game 2) that we had to come out fast and strong,” said Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait. “After an emotional win in their rink, we needed to carry the momentum, and I liked how we started the game.
“We had a great first shift and had a chance very early. Bridgland’s line jumped on an opportunity and put one in off a hard forecheck, exactly how we asked them to start. Bridgland has been a guy who has been all over the ice and playing strong and was finally rewarded with a goal. It certainly helped to get the fans into it very early.”
The Rangers kept the heat on throughout the frame, outshooting the Peach Kings by a 10-5 margin and continued throughout the second period as Eric Taylor boosted Glanbrook’s margin to 2-0 with his first post-season tally at the 4:09 mark. But Grimsby got the chance to battle back when their top playoff scorer Blake Venneri was awarded a penalty shot in the first minute of the third period.
“We got caught flat-footed on the offensive blue line and they were able to get behind our D, which we know we needed to watch as they have been activating wingers early to try and catch us,” said Tait. “I liked our chances (on the penalty shot) as (netminder Tiago) Rocha has been playing some great hockey. Unfortunately, he made a nice move and was able to capitalize.”
Tyler Smeda re-established Glanbrook’s two-goal margin a couple of minutes later, but Venneri netted his 11th goal of the playoffs at 7:54 to put the Peach Kings within striking distance. But Rocha held firm and the Rangers’ penalty-killing unit once again answered the bell and kept Grimsby off the scoresheet for their seven man-advantage opportunities. The Peach Kings have not scored a power-play goal on 12 tries.
“We have been lights out on the PK, which is good,” said Tait. “The guys like (Aiden) Ferguson, (Ethan) Cloutier and (Ty) Crombie have been remarkable, and I feel our defence are doing a good enough job out front to allow Rochs to see the shots coming through. We are constantly making minor adjustments on the bench and between periods, and the guys have been playing very well.”
Now, having said that, the Glanbrook power play has been scarcely better than Grimsby’s (one goal on 16 opportunities, or a 6.25 per cent success rate to the Peach Kings’ 0.0 per cent), but neutralizing your rival’s power play and winning the 5-on-5 game has been a successful formula for the Rangers all season. Still, said Tait, the power play might bear some attention should the Rangers advance.
“It’s a concern, we need to be a lot better on the PP,” he said. “It just comes down to simplifying and executing as much as we can. Special teams can make or break you, and we need our PP guys to start producing in order to carry on down the road.”
Golebiowski closed out the scoring for Glanbrook with an empty-netter at 19:05 to squelch any hopes Grimsby had of a late charge; they now face a make or break encounter on home ice. And the Rangers are well aware that the old hockey maxim is still true: the hardest win to get in any series is the fourth win.
“We need to go for the throat,” said Tait. “We know we are going into their barn and will face the best Grimsby team from here on out. We need to match the intensity and stick with what has made us successful the whole season. Grimsby has a long outstanding history of being the team to beat, and we know that the series is far from over.”
NOTES: Rocha made 26 saves to earn his seventh playoff win and drop his goals-against average to 2.13. … This was the third penalty shot that Rocha has faced this season. He stopped the first two, against William Mahoney of Niagara on Oct. 12 and against James Almeida of Dunnville on Nov. 24. … Defenceman Tyler Mulholland was back in the Rangers’ lineup after completing his four-game suspension … The three goalie interference penalty rule has had a slight impact on this year’s PJHL playoffs. The Mooretown Flags protested their Game 5 loss to the Essex 73s in the Stobbs Division semifinal over the fact that Essex forward Liam Hall, who had received three GI penalties, played in the game. The protest of using an illegal player was upheld and Essex’s 3-1 series-ending victory became a 5-0 win for Mooretown. Essex went on to win the series anyway.