PORT DOVER (Jan. 22) — Terry Bridgland continued his torrid scoring pace and the Rangers’ vaunted penalty-killing unit made an uncharacteristic offensive contribution as Glanbrook ousted the Port Dover Sailors 5-3 to extend their latest winning streak to four games. The Rangers have now earned at least a point in 21 consecutive games; their only loss in that span came against to Grimsby in overtime.
Bridgland, meanwhile, is setting a sizzling clip on his own. The Rangers’ forward has amassed seven goals (and 10 points) over his last four games, including two in this effort against the Sailors, giving him 14 on the season. That puts him in third spot on the team behind leader Sean Golebiowski’s 26 and 22 by runner-up Cooper Hood.
It was Hood who initiated the Rangers’ offensive assault against Port Dover, scoring off the opening faceoff of the second period after the sides had battled through a scoreless opening act. But what came next set the tone for the game. Holding that always-tenuous one-goal margin, the Rangers, who are the most-penalized team in the Bloomfield Division, faced a manpower deficit. Now, it so happens that Glanbrook is also the Bloomfield’s top penalty-killing unit, so they generally aren’t fazed by such a predicament.
But the Rangers went that one better — actually, two better — and netted a pair of shorthanded goals, one by Jackson Gruber at 2:55 and a second by Bridgland at 11:48.
“My mindset while killing penalties is to clog the shooting lanes and give them no good looks,” said Gruber, whose unassisted marker was his third since joining the team four games ago. “I was trying to get on them fast in hopes that they would turn the puck over, and thankfully they did because I got a nice break.”
Gruber stressed, though, that offensive openings while shorthanded are a secondary concern. “It depends on the opportunities presented,” he said, “but you have to make sure you are taking care of the D-zone first.”
Building up that 3-0 margin stood the Rangers in good stead as the Sailors managed to whittle the lead down to 3-2 as Ben Mason scored a pair of goals — first on a powerplay at 14:29 of the second period and again at 1:51 of the third. A key reply by Tyler Smeda re-established a two-goal Ranger lead, but Mason completed his hat trick at 14:39 to provide some tense moments for the visitors. Ultimately, the Rangers were able to stave off the rally and Bridgland potted his second goal at 19:54 of the third stanza just to make sure.
“We controlled the play for the first two periods, but let our foot off the gas in the third,” said Gruber. “We really put pressure on in the second, and there was some back and forth in the third, but we were able to handle it by scoring a late goal for insurance.”
Jason Sviergula continued his spotless run by making 30 saves to earn his 14th win with no losses this season, but as his streak continued, another came to an end. Golebiowski was held without a point for the first time since Sept. 16 against Grimsby, an exceptional run of 25 games. The Rangers have won all six of their confrontations with the Sailors so far this season, outscoring them 30-11. They have just one meeting remaining, on Feb. 12 in Port Dover.
The Rangers, meanwhile, maintained their nine-point gap on the Grimsby Peach Kings in the Bloomfield Division standings (55 points to 46), with just a dozen games left in the regular season schedule.
NOTES: Glanbrook has the second-most points in the PJHL (55), just two back of the frontrunning Essex 73s … Glanbrook doubled their season’s shorthanded goal output with the two scored in this game. Golebiowski and Eric Taylor have the other two … Gruber has accumulated seven points in his four outings, with four assists to go with his three goals. …