DUNDAS (Feb. 17) — Talk about making a statement. If the Glanbrook Rangers’ response to their OT loss the previous night was a text message, it would be one of those ones written in ALL CAPS with a string of exclamation marks trailing along behind it.
The Rangers staged a remarkable recovery, thrashing the Dundas Blues 8-2 the night after losing a demoralizing 5-4 overtime decision to the Niagara RiverHawks. It also gave the Rangers some satisfying retribution against the hosts, who, in their last encounter, staged a third-period rally to erase a two-goal Glanbrook lead and emerge with a 5-5 draw.
“Our last games against Niagara and Dundas were tough,” said Ranger defenceman Josh Lindsay. “But they were a good wake-up call to notice what we need to improve on. I think it gave everyone motivation to come out hard and stick to our game plan, which is exactly what we did tonight.”
And it didn’t take the Rangers very long to declare their intent against the Blues. Forward Ryan Burke, who had two third-period goals against Niagara, picked up right where he left off, scoring his 18th goal just a minute into the game. Nick Cutaia equalized for the Blues at 12:51, but Chase Johnson’s 17th tally re-established the Rangers’ lead.
The second stanza was all Glanbrook as they struck for four unanswered goals, with, as an added bonus, a couple of them coming from unfamiliar sources. Lindsay connected on a power play at 1:49 to instigate the flurry. It was the first goal of the season for the Ranger rearguard who is more known for his defensive focus and aggressive bodychecking.
“My primary role on the team is to prevent scoring chances,” said Lindsay. “Blocking shots, making hits … I try to focus on defence first and let our players push the pace in the offensive zone. But the coaches trusted me to go to work on the power play, and I was given a good opportunity to score from the slot and capitalized on it.”
Not long after that, Rangers forward Aiden Ferguson chipped in with an unassisted marker. It was his second of the season, but it was much more, let’s say conventional, than his first, which came the night before against Niagara. Now, not to be unkind, that goal was a bit of a fluke as it was actually scored by a RiverHawks defenceman who banked a clearing shot into his own net. Ferguson got credit because he was the last Ranger to touch the puck.
“Well, it was definitely not the way I imagined my first goal of the season going in,” said Ferguson. “But anytime you can get a lucky bounce like that and have things going your way, it’s a very good feeling. On this one, their defenceman was coming up the side wall and I was able to poke the puck loose from his stick and walk in down the left side. I looked for an opening and found it in the top corner above (Dundas goalie Austin Strom’s) glove.”
Ferguson, like Lindsay, is more defensive-oriented and does yeoman service as one of the Rangers penalty-killers. It’s a duty he embraces and executes very successfully: for instance, the Rangers held the Blues scoreless on six man-advantage opportunities.
“Everyone on our team knows their roles very well,” Ferguson said. “Any time I’m on the ice, I see my role as working as hard as I can … backcheck hard, forecheck with speed, and most importantly kill penalties. Our team seems to get a lot of those, so any time you can kill one off, it’s a good thing knowing you are helping the team out.”
Terry Bridgland and Justin Vermeulen followed with second-period goals and Ty Crombie joined the scoring parade early in the third to push Glanbrook’s lead to 7-1 before Clarke Bellamy replied with a shorthanded effort at 12:13 for the Blues. But Vermeulen, who has compiled five goals and 11 points in his last seven games, put the seal on the win with his 14th at 13:54.
The victory moved the Rangers to within two points of clinching the Bloomfield Division crown with four games remaining, while closing out the season series against the Blues with a 6-0-1-0 mark. It also ushered the Rangers into a brief respite after a gruelling five game in nine nights schedule. They’ll have a three-day break before embarking on another ordeal of three games in five days, including a rematch with Niagara on Family Day (Monday, Feb. 20, 4:30 pm, Glanbrook Arena).
It has been particularly demanding on goaltender Jason Sviergula, who has made 11 consecutive starts while netminding partner Tiago Rocha has been sidelined with a lower-body injury. Sviergula turned in a 25-save performance to collect his 19th win.
“After last night’s overtime loss, where we fell apart, tonight’s plan was to just stick to our systems, play a full 60 minutes and outwork Dundas at all times and all over the ice,” said Ferguson. “Terry (Bridgland) said before the game that we need to play this one for Jason. He’s kept us in a lot of games for the past few weeks with Tiago out, and we knew we owed him a big game.
“He played fantastic once again for us, and we delivered for him offensively.”
NOTES: The win lifted the Rangers into top spot in the overall PJHL standings, as far as points are concerned. They have 67 points, three ahead of the Stayner Siskins and the Essex 73s … The Rangers are third overall in winning percentage (behind Stayner and Essex) with an .882 mark … The Rangers are fourth in the league in goal differential with an impressive +109 aggregate. … On special teams, the Rangers are at 27.4 per cent on the power play and 85.7 on the penalty kill.