GRIMSBY (Apr. 6) — In the playoffs, sometimes you have to beat more than your on-ice opponent. Injuries, bad luck, your own fears and foibles and just plain exhaustion all at times rear their gruesome heads and somehow have to be overcome. The Glanbrook Rangers did just that as they gutted out a 3-1 triumph over the Grimsby Peach Kings in the opening game of the Bloomfield Division Final.
From the outset, it appeared that the Rangers were struggling to find their form. Reactions were slow, execution was clumsy, mistakes were many, (but fortunately not fatal, because the Peach Kings for their part weren’t any sharper than Glanbrook through a nondescript first period).
It should really come as no shock that the Rangers were missing the mark ever so slightly. First, they were burdened by a number of nagging hurts, the most calamitous being an upper body injury suffered by forward Ryan Burke, which has knocked Glanbrook’s second-leading playoff scorer out of the lineup for the remainder of the series. But most crucial is the fact that the Rangers have had a very busy post-season: 13 pretty intense games in just 27 days.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey,” said Rangers coach Andrew Tait. “When you get tired, you start to make some mental mistakes. But, at the end of the night, we found a way to win and that’s what’s important.”
The Rangers’ first breakthrough came just past the midway point of the first period when leading scorer Sean Golebiowski slid what appeared to be a harmless shot toward the Grimsby net, which travelled through the feet of several players and under the pads of Peach King goaltender Riley Eberhardt to give Glanbrook a 1-0 lead, which held as the teams slogged their way through the scoreless second stanza.
“This game went exactly how I thought it would,” said Tait. “It was ugly, with very tight checking. I think that’s how this whole series is going to play out.”
Grimsby evened the score early in the third, capitalizing on an odd-man rush just as a Glanbrook penalty expired as Ben Switzer batted a rebound past Rangers’ netminder Ethan Cook to knot things up at the 47-second mark. Thereafter, the game hung on how (and who) would make the decisive breakthrough, with the Rangers looking ever more weary.
But, their fortitude was rewarded when Cooper Hood lobbed a clearing shot from his own zone which took a beneficial bounce and allowed Golebiowski to squeeze past the Grimsby defence, and, in a repeat performance, he again squibbed a shot under Eberhardt for his ninth goal of the post-season and a 2-1 Ranger margin with just over four minutes to victory.
The Peach Kings tried and failed to mount a comeback, with Cook solidly standing up to every challenge, and Hood snuffed out any remaining hopes when he intercepted a pass and deposited the puck in the empty Peach King net at 19:26.
The Rangers hope that victory will generate its own energy, especially as they’ll get precious little opportunity to rest and heal since they’re back at it again tonight at Glanbrook Arena (7:30 pm) for Game 2. But with adversity comes opportunity, Tait said.
“Some of our players are going to have the chance to get more ice time than maybe they’re used to,” he said. “At times like this, someone’s got to step up and fill in.”
NOTES: Cook earned his third consecutive win and his fifth of the playoffs with his 38-save outing … Special teams played virtually no role in this sedate encounter. Both teams were 0-for-3 with the man advantage … Hood’s goal was his seventh of the post-season.