Terry Bridgland beats Port Dover goalie Hunter Welk on a breakaway during Glanbrook's 7-2 victory, their 16th win in a row.


GLANBROOK (Jan. 4) — Holiday? What holiday?  The Glanbrook Rangers returned to action after their yuletide recess and immediately put to rest any possible concerns about over-indulgent merrymaking or accumulated rust from inactivity as they rolled to a 7-2 victory over the Port Dover Sailors, their 16th consecutive win.

The Rangers picked up right where they left off a couple of weeks ago, methodically dominating the visitors, until the contest took a categorical turn for the mindless early in the third period, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

“We weren’t really nervous, but you never know what you’re going to get back in game action,” said Rangers coach Andrew Tait.  “We had a couple of good high-paced skates (over the holidays), but you can never match game intensity.  We have a good leadership group that I am sure kept on the guys to stay focused and game-ready.  It’s never easy when you play the two teams closest to you back-to-back, but we came out ready to go.”

That’s an understatement:  the Rangers took control of the encounter from the outset and manufactured a 5-0 lead by the middle of the second period.  Owen Johnston opened the scoring just 1:50 after the game’s debut and was followed in short order by goals from Ty Crombie, Tyler Smeda, Harrison Farrugia, Chase Johnson and Terry Bridgland, while holding a hefty margin in shots (29-13 up to that point and 40-21 overall).

The only blot on the ledger was a deflection goal by Port Dover’s Mike Vanacker at 17:50 of the second frame.

“I really liked our puck movement,” said Tait, assessing some of the positive aspects of the team’s effort.  “I felt we had good creativity in their zone, and I loved the fact that we had net presence, which made it tough for their goalie.”   Actually, goalies, as Port Dover starter Caleb Ursu gave way to Hunter Welk after the Rangers’ fifth goal by Johnson at 13:24 of the second.

But things got a little weird as the third stanza got underway.  Perhaps a brief second-period skirmish between Glanbrook’s Karter Doohan and the Sailors’ Ben Mason was an omen of things to come, but at the 5:11 mark of period three, Port Dover’s Tyler Matthews abruptly dropped his gloves and bushwhacked Ranger defenceman Josh Lindsay, ripping off the latter’s helmet and pulling his jersey over his head while throwing punches.   To his credit, Lindsay’s response was merely to defend himself as best as he could while the linesmen inexplicably stood by for far too long an interval.  In the end, Matthews received nine minutes in penalties, while Lindsay received none.

“I have no idea how it started,” said Tait.  “I know that in some games when the score and pace of play isn’t going your way, tempers begin to flare and I feel that is what must have happened.  It kind of came out of nowhere.”

And that wasn’t the end of it, either.  Just when it seemed that calm had been restored, Glanbrook’s Terry Bridgland and Port Dover’s Brady Seibert started slugging it out at centre ice.  That fracas was resolved with a mish-mash of penalties, including the rarely seen judgements “second altercation during a stoppage” (for both combatants) and “travesty of the game” (to Seibert).   The unfortunate consequence for the Rangers is that Bridgland will likely receive a two-game suspension just when the Rangers are already shortstaffed owing to injuries and are due to face  the Grimsby Peach Kings, their closest pursuers in the Bloomfield Division, on Friday.

After the sideshow dramatics subsided, the event continued without further incident as the teams traded goals in the final few minutes.  Cooper Hood recorded his 20th of the season at 17:02 and Nick D’Agostino replied for Port Dover at 19:05.

All in all, the Rangers showed that they hadn’t lost their stride and, going forward, the emphasis will be on fine-tuning their proficiency over the remaining 17 games of the regular season to have them at peak performance for the playoffs.

“We need to really focus on the small things,” said Tait.  “We need to get into good habits.  We know the second half of the season is a different animal, and the playoffs are even tougher.  We expect teams to throw everything at us … and we need to be ready to battle.  If we want to make a long run this year, we need to do all the little things better than everybody else.”

NOTES:  Dallas Nadasdi contributed four assists for the Rangers … Jason Sviergula made 19 saves to remain undefeated.  He has an 11-0 record to go with his 1.99 goals-against average …  Rangers’ captain Sean Golebiowski had two assists to stay in the hunt for the PJHL scoring leadership.  He has 25 goals and 24 assists and trails league-leader Lucas Carson of the New Hamburg Firebirds by 10 points.