GLANBROOK 5, GRIMSBY 2
GLANBROOK (APR. 5) — Ryan Burke’s hat trick spearheaded a total team effort as the Glanbrook Rangers took the opening game of the Bloomfield Division Final series by a 5-2 score over their archrivals, the Grimsby Peach Kings.
In a season where plenty went right for the Rangers, this game stood out as one of their finest, with superior performances in all aspects of the game from start to finish, much to the delight of the raucous and numerous supporters who packed Glanbrook Arena and celebrated each Ranger accomplishment with a chorus of horns that sounded like the 401 during rush hour.
“We just stuck to our game plan and do what we do,” said Burke, whose trio of tallies gave him six in total and propelled him into the team post-season lead. “When we start to fall away from our game plan we can run around and look bad. But when we stick to it, we’re a very solid squad and that leads to success.”
You hear that “stuck to our game plan” assessment a lot around hockey, but what exactly does it mean? Well, in this case, according to Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait, it means “keeping our third man high in the offensive zone, cutting off the passes coming up the middle, forechecking strong and working their defence. If we do that, we can create turnovers. It’s a pretty simple plan.”
And the key to making it all work? Discipline. And that means discipline in all situations: the discipline to follow directives, the discipline to put the team first and make sacrifices for the greater good, and above all, the discipline to keep your emotions contained. That’s what Tait felt was the most important factor in the Rangers’ near-flawless outing.
“We stayed out of the (penalty) box and executed exactly what we wanted to execute,” he said.
Proof of that was evident on the scoresheet. Can anyone recall the last time the Rangers took only two minor penalties in a game? Certainly not in the previous series against the Niagara RiverHawks. Compared to those rambunctious confrontations, this encounter was positively gentlemanly.
“Not that the Niagara series wasn’t important,” said Tait, “but in this one, there’s a lot more at stake. When you’re playing for the division championship, guys don’t want to do something stupid that will get them suspended. We just want to make sure that we play hard between the whistles.”
A wise strategy, especially since the Rangers are still short-staffed with several players serving suspensions from the Niagara series.
But this time, Glanbrook kept everything under control, including the Peach Kings. After the usual getting reacquainted awkwardness of the game’s early stages, the Rangers took the lead on Burke’s first goal at 8:58 of the first period, a shot from near the blueline that eluded Kings’ netminder Nico Balice, who was distracted by the near-collision of Ranger forwards Sean Golebiowski and Terry Bridgland right on his doorstep.
An ill-timed icing call late in the period gave Grimsby the chance to come back as Ben Switzer got the puck off the faceoff and beat Tiago Rocha, who was making his sixth consecutive post-season start for the Rangers, to send the teams into the first intermission tied 1-1. But really, that brief interlude was about the only real tension in the entire game. Glanbrook took charge in the second period.
Ty Crombie and Golebiowski scored almost identical goals (five-hole shots from the right faceoff circle) — at 5:05 and 9:02 of the middle stanza — to put Glanbrook up 3-1 and chase Balice from the net. He was replaced by former Ranger Nolan Verardo, who faced 24 shots in a half a game and surrendered Burke’s final two goals at 1:04 and 6:06 of the third period. Brendan Kowaleski took advantage of a rare and momentary lapse by the Rangers to add another goal for Grimsby, but it scarcely mattered and Glanbrook ran out the clock on their opening triumph.
The Peach Kings seemed as though they might like to spice things up near the end of the game, but none of the Rangers took the bait. But they did, perhaps, take it as a warning that there is still work to be done.
“It was great to hear our fans supporting us,” said Tait. “We know that’s what it will be like when we go to Grimsby and we’ll have to be ready for that. Friday will be the test to see if we can keep our emotions in check and play the same way as we did in this game.”
NOTES: The Rangers were without regulars Terry Mulholland, Eric Bridgwater, Karter Doohan and Jack Shedden, who were out with a mixture of injuries and suspensions. Jackson Gruber was also sidelined with an injury.