GLANBROOK (Dec. 7) — Owen Johnston scored his first goal as a Glanbrook Ranger and five of his teammates also contributed markers as the Bloomfield Division leaders stretched their streak to 13 consecutive wins with a 6-1 victory over the Hagersville Hawks. The Rangers haven’t lost since Oct. 12 and have won 19 of their last 20 outings.
While the Rangers handily defeated the Hawks, this contest could boast little in the way of artistic merit, often resembling more of a rambunctious shinny showdown than a junior-level matchup. But while it might have lacked expertise, it certainly was entertaining … at least for a while as the Hawks played with a zeal that belied their status as Bloomfield cellar dwellers.
After both teams grappled through a scoreless first period, the Rangers’ superior skill began to assert itself and the question became: How long could the Hawks hold on, and might they be able to stage a surprise for the hosts? The answers, unfortunately for Hagersville, were not very and no. Despite their less-than-sharp play, the Rangers just proved too powerful for their opponents. They fired 34 shots at Hawks’ netminder Gavan Banga over the first two periods and by the end of the second frame had forged a 3-1 lead.
Cooper Hood opened the bidding for Glanbrook with his 17th goal at 3:42. Sean Golebiowski boosted his team-leading goal total to 23 at 7:35 and Johnston connected at 14:07.
“I just felt it was about staying patient and trying to generate chances with my linemates,” Johnston said about his debut marker since joining the Rangers four games ago. “Do that and good things will happen.”
Amidst the Glanbrook production, Hagersville’s Spencer Cornick managed to capitalize on a Ranger misstep at 10:20 to spoil goalie Jason Svergulia’s bid for a shuout, but that was all the Hawks could muster.
“I liked our defence playing aggressively,” said Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait. “I think we focused on taking time and space away, and I felt that we were successful in doing that.
“I challenged the team before the game to limit them to 10 shots a period, and we did that in all but one period. Offensively, I liked our attack, I thought we got a lot of pucks to the net, and as well as their goalie played, our consistency paid off.”
By the third stanza, they were a spent force and the Rangers collected three unanswered goals (and came close to adding several more) to win going away. Eric Bridgwater scored his sixth goal at 4:44, Tyler Smeda contributed his second tally at 5:27, and Harrison Farrugia, returning to the lineup after a five-game absence, collected his fourth of the season. Even a few gratuitious late penalties in what was generally a fairly tame engagement failed to energize the Hawks.
Glanbrook now holds a comfortable 10-point lead on second-place Grimsby in the Bloomfield Division and they appear to be firing on all cylinders with just two games remaining before the teams take a three-week break over the holidays. But they’re taking nothing for granted.
“We definitely have things to work on but that just speaks to how good this team is,” said Johnston. “We compete with each other in practice, which is the best competition, and we feel we still have room to get better.”
Tait fully agreed with that sentiment, pointing out that the competition always seems to get stiffer as the season progresses.
“We are certainly letting the good times roll now,” he said. “But teams are going to get much better, so as much as we enjoy this early success, we haven’t accomplished anything to this point.
“Our focus at practice and every game must be to compete to win and work harder than the other team because as we have seen this year, on any given night, anyone can win.”
NOTES: The Rangers have a 4-0 record against the Hawks this season, outscoring them 26-7 … Sviergula turned in a steady 27-save performance to maintain his spotless record of 10-0 to go with a 1.99 goals-against average and .929 save percentage … Terry Bridgland had a pair of assists, as did centre Ty Crombie, who skated for much of the game between top scorers Hood and Golebiowski on Glanbrook’s top line. “We made a few adjustments during the game, moved a few guys around,” explained Tait. “As coaches, we are fortunate that we have a lineup where anyone can play in any spot, we are just trying to find that perfect balance so that our depth becomes a challenge for any team to overcome. ” … Golebiowski’s two-point effort kept him in the top three scorers in the PJHL. He has 42 points and trails league-leader Lucas Carson of the New Hamburg Firebirds (50 pts) and Jake Weston of the North Middlesex Stars (49) … Ethan Cloutier will join teammate Sviergula on the South team in the PJHL Prospects Game. The annual showcase for the league’s young talent was originally scheduled for Nov. 18 in Grimsby, but was postponed due to inclement weather. A new date has not yet been announced.