GLANBROOK (Dec. 22) — The holiday season got just a little bit happier for the Glanbrook Rangers as they entered  the year-end break on a high note by recording an 8-1 triumph over the Dundas Blues.  It was a particularly festive occasion for the Rangers, whose eight goals represented their most impressive offensive output of the season, a welcome gift for a team that has struggled to score lately.

“Well, we caught a bit of a break since their goalie was hurt in the warmup,” said Rangers coach Andrew Tait, referring to the Blues’ use of minor hockey callup Alexander Rebane in place of regular netminder Matt Watson.  “Still, this (scoring onslaught) was a long time coming, that’s for sure.”

In fact, the Rangers assembled all the necessary component parts for a complete effort in the contest:   an accelerated pace rarely seen over their past few outings, effective forechecking, a finishing touch that has been woefully absent most of this season, determined and disciplined penalty killing.   And they even managed to score two — yes, two — power-play goals, a notable accomplishment considering they had only scored six in total in the entire campaign.

So, what made the difference?  Preparation, said Tait. 

“The guys really got up to play Dundas (who the Rangers trail by three points in the divisional standings),” he said.  “We came here ready to go; we didn’t want to go into the break on a two-game losing streak.

“And we’ve been working this week on trying to create more opportunities off the rush, to shoot pucks to score and to cash in on rebounds.”

The Rangers’ romp started early  as they built up a 3-0 lead after the first period on goals by Matt Wright, Ethan Cloutier and Chase Johnson.

Equally impressive was Glanbrook’s penalty killing, which held firm through a double-minor late in the first, then repeated the feat early in the second.  A goal surrendered at that crucial moment could have let the Blues  steal the momentum, but the Rangers escaped without damage and continued their  offensive gallop with four more goals in the second frame.  Sean Golebiowski scored his team-best 10th and Tyler Mulholland connected for his sixth, tops among Glanbrook defencemen.   Johnson and Cloutier chipped in with their second goals apiece to round out the middle-stanza tally.

Rangers’ goaltender Ethan Cook extended his shutout string to six periods and seemed well on his way to his second consecutive blanking, but the Blues spoiled that hope when Eric Semiwolos redirected a point shot past Cook at 3:15 of the third period.   However, Christian Stevens retaliated with his first goal at 8:58 of the third to round out the Rangers’ balance sheet.

So, the season’s opening segment closes.  It began with uncertainty, followed by a rapid run to get a team together without the customary time for assessment and development that would have come through tryouts and training camp (not to mention that fact that most of the players had limited access to ice at best through the preceding 18 months). It’s no wonder then that the results have been somewhat mixed.

“Up to this point, we have definitely had some ups and downs,” said team captain Brennan Ireland.  “We have give up some points we should have gotten.  But looking at the standings, the race for first is pretty tight.  We know what our potential is and we won’t be satisfied until we are on top.

“As of late, I have seen an upwards trend in our performance and we have strung together some good wins.   This game was a huge win for us at home and can hopefully give us some confidence going into the New Year.”

Veteran Rangers’ forward and leading scorer Sean Golebiowski added that there are still some areas that “need to tweaked.”

“I thought on the whole we had a solid start with lots of positives,” he said.  “Scoring is definitely an issue with our team this year,  but I believe that if we can find a way to bury our opportunities, a push to the top of the standings will be very realistic.”

The Rangers will return to action (barring any further Covid-related constraints) on Wednesday, Jan. 5 vs Niagara Riverhawks (7:30 p.m., Glanbrook Arena).