WELLESLEY 3, GLANBROOK 2 (OT)
WELLESLEY (Apr. 21) — The Glanbrook Rangers’ first taste of overtime in this post-season was short, and definitely not sweet. Carson Wickie scored his second goal of the game just 1:11 into the extra session to give the Wellesley AppleJacks a 3-2 victory which evened the South Conference Final at one game apiece.
“We didn’t come out hard, we came out flat,” said Rangers coach Andrew Tait after the disappointing outcome. “We made a couple of defensive miscues and the puck ended up in the back of our net.”
That pretty much summed up the whole tone of the contest, which never came close to matching the end-to-end action of the first game of the series. The dimensions of the Wellesley Arena were in part responsible for that. It’s a small rink with tight corners, dead boards and a ceiling so low you think you might bump your head. That made for lots of whistles, lots of icings and a stilted, stop-and-start sort of process.
It particularly seemed to affect the Rangers (not surprisingly), who clearly experienced some difficulty getting their game in gear. The AppleJacks are a fast, tight-checking team anyway, and within the cozy confines of their home rink, they pestered the Rangers relentlessly.
“Of course, they have the familiarity of playing there all the time,” said Tait. “They sure took our time and space away. But the way to counter it is simply to work harder. They worked harder than we did today. We started periods 1, 3 and 4 on our heels. We’ve got to come out ready to go.”
Neither team could really get untracked in the opening stages of the first frame, although Glanbrook was given a golden opportunity when Wellesley’s Tristian Huinink took a four-minute head contact penalty at the midway point. But the Rangers were unable to connect and it was the AppleJacks who drew first blood when, with just one second remaining in their penalty, Connor Bradley whacked a bouncing puck past Glanbrook netminder Tiago Rocha for a shorthanded tally at 13:20.
Wickie delivered his first goal of the game at 17:47 to send Wellesley into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.
The Rangers looked sharper in the second period, less like they were chasing the game and more like they were the pace-setters. An AppleJack penalty for goaltender interference in the opening minute provided a break and Sean Golebiowski managed to redirect a point shot from Cooper Hood for a power-play goal at 2:29. That seemed to inspire the Rangers and they showed signs that they might get back to the kind of game that has brought them success throughout the playoffs.
Chase Johnson used speed to slip past a Wellesley defender and charge the net. His thrust failed, but Terry Bridgland followed up on the play and banged the rebound past Wellesley goaltender Noah Bender to knot the game 2-2.
Unfortunately, the third period reverted to the form of the first: scraggly, unfocused and labourious. Neither team was able to generate any momentum or flow and the stanza ground on until the Rangers were faced with a major challenge when Ryan Burke was assessed a slashing penalty with just over two minutes to go. But thanks to some inspired penalty-killing, especially by defenceman Josh Lindsay, who blocked shot after shot and at one point singlehandedly controlled the puck along the boards while fending off a pair of Wellesley forecheckers, the Rangers escaped with no damage, and perhaps even a little energy for the extra frame.
“Yeah, after killing that penalty off, I thought we’d carry some of that momentum into the overtime,” said Tait. “I guess not.”
In fact, the Rangers never even got a shot in OT, as Wellesley put the puck in deep off the opening faceoff and in a blink forced a turnover that Wickie drove home for the triumph.
NOTES: Rangers forward Jackson Gruber made his long-awaited return to the lineup. He has been sidelined with an injury since Feb. 2 … Forwards Justin Vermeulen and Karter Doohan and defenceman Ryan Reaves were out of the lineup with various ailments … The Rangers were outshot 37-25 … It was Glanbrook’s first overtime appearance since a 3-2 OT loss to Hagersville on March 5. The Rangers’ OT record over the season was 2-3-1.