GLANBROOK (Jan. 18) — Terry Bridgland scored twice and Jason Sviergula dazzled between the pipes as the Glanbrook Rangers scored a thrill-packed 5-1 victory over the Grimsby Peach Kings.
Divisional supremacy and streaks galore were on the line as the two perennial rivals met for the fifth time this season — and perhaps a little urge for revenge. Not that these foes ever really need any extra motivation, but it became obvious very early on that the pace would be frenzied and anything gained would have to be earned.
Those streaks? Well, let’s start with the ultimate in a team sport: winning streaks. The Peach Kings had won 12 games in succession, their best span of the season, which included a 2-1 overtime triumph over the Rangers back on Jan. 6. That would be where the revenge factor came in as that result ended Glanbrook’s remarkable 16-game string of success.
“The last game against the Peach Kings was definitely a battle, but I don’t think we played our best,” said Bridgland. “Tonight, we had the motivation towards Grimsby as they ended our win streak … we decided to return the favour.”
But wait. Yes, the Peach Kings did end the Rangers’ winning streak, but not their point-scoring streak which got that much longer with the Rangers triumph. Glanbrook has now earned at least a point in 20 consecutive matches. Of course, the victory gave the Rangers a little more breathing room on the Peach Kings, who had significantly narrowed the gap on the first-place Rangers in the race for first in the Bloomfield Division (12-game winning streaks will have that effect). Glanbrook’s now a slightly more comfortable nine points up on Grimsby with 13 games remaining in the regular season. We’ll look at a few more statistical curiosities in a bit.
The Rangers accomplished their feat with a solid, all-around effort, with effective forechecking, firewagon offensive bursts and stalwart defence, underpinned by Sviergula’s clutch goaltending.
“The guys competed … from start to finish,” said Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait. “We focused on keeping our third guy (forechecker) high — we preach that, especially against Grimsby — and that allowed us to pressure their D and give them a tough time getting it out of their zone. We executed that very well.”
That constraint led to Glanbrook’s first goal as captain Sean Golebiowski capitalized on a turnover to beat Grimsby goalie Nico Balice through the five-hole at 2:56 of the first period. (Streak alert: Golebiowski has now earned at least a point in 25 straight games, the best such mark in the PJHL). Grimsby answered early in the second on a goal by Hunter Zoccoli when a risky pinch by a Glanbrook defencemen sprang the Peach Kings on an odd-man rush.
But the Rangers turned up the heat again and emerged from the second period with a 3-1 lead on goals by Ty Crombie and Bridgland, with his first. In the meantime, Sviergula made some key saves to preserve Glanbrook’s margin. The rookie netminder has not lost a game yet this season, peeling off 13 wins in a row, including two against the Peach Kings.
“I’ve just been taking it one game at a time, not looking too far into the future and focusing on each game individually,” said Sviergula, of his run of success. As for this outing, he added, “As a goaltender, it’s my job to give the team the best possible chance to be successful. I need to be there for my team, just like they are for me. Tactically, I was just focusing on keeping the puck out of the net. Keeping all their chances to a one-and-done was crucial. This eliminates and second-hand opportunities and was also a key factor in my thought process during those “heavier” times in the game.”
With that support, Bridgland was able to amplify the Rangers’ lead with a highlight-worthy goal just a minute into the third stanza. He took a pass near the Grimsby blueline, split the defence and lasered a top-shelf shot past Balice for his 12th goal of the year and his fifth in the past three games.
“Yeah, Grubs (Jackson Gruber) sent a great pass to me and I just kind of looked up and realized I had an opening in the middle and took my chance,” Bridgland said. “The goaltender was playing in his net and went with a nice low glove placement.”
Gruber completed the Rangers balance sheet for the night with his second goal of the season at 12:12, adding a fitting finish to a satisfying affair.
“As a team, we were able to keep our composure despite this being a high-tension game,” said Sviergula. “We are most effective when our emotions are in check, and tonight was a demonstration of that. We play very effective systems that, when executed, are very successful. When we buy into playing the right way, we are very hard to stop.”
NOTES: To finish off the streak theme, Glanbrook is on a 10-game home winning streak, and they are a perfect 23-0 when scoring first … Sviergula made 23 saves, dropped his goals-against average to 1.84 and his save percentage to .932 … Golebiowski added an assist to boost his point total to 54 (26 goals, 28 assists) which ties him for third spot in the PJHL … Cooper Hood had two assists and sits in ninth place with 49 points.