RANGERS STUMBLE IN BID FOR CLINCHER

Terry Bridgland's between-the-legs highlight reel goal was stunning, but not enough to propel the Rangers to victory.

GRIMSBY 5, GLANBROOK 3 

 

GRIMSBY (Apr. 11) — And so it continues.  The Glanbrook Rangers had everything lined up for a victory celebration after Game 4 of  their Bloomfield Division final series:  a 3-0 lead in games, all the momentum in the world, and judging by the number and decibel level, more of their own fans in attendance than local denizens.  But sometimes things just don’t work out the way you planned, and the Grimsby Peach Kings managed to stave off elimination with a 5-3 victory to extend the series to at least a fifth contest.

It was one of those nights when the things that brought the Rangers success during this playoff run just went ever so slightly awry.  But before we explore that, Spoiler Alert:  in a last-ditch frenzy with just seconds left in the game, the Rangers appeared to have tied the match at 4-4 and salvaged a shot at overtime redemption.   However, the referee disallowed the goal, ruling that the Grimsby net had been dislodged from its moorings.  And so …

Back to those little things, and the biggest of the little was that the Rangers’ penalty killing, rightly judged to be a key to their achievements, on this night wasn’t as effective as usual.  In fact, special teams may well have been the critical factor:   the Peach Kings managed to score twice on their four power-play opportunities, including what proved to be the decisive tally by Maxim Ljuboja at 12:07 of the third period, while the Rangers failed to connect on their two man advantages.

“We just couldn’t keep composed,” said Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait. “We started panicking and getting on each other a bit, and when that happens, you start gripping the stick a little tighter and start making mistakes that you wouldn’t normally make.”

In the same vein, the Rangers’ defensive zone play was muddled and they were letting shots get through to goaltender Tiago Rocha that in the past three games would have been blocked or knocked away with an active stick.  Three of the Grimsby goals came on screened shots from the point.

“We struggled in our zone,” said Tait.  “Our forwards could have done a better job competing for the puck.  We were letting shots through traffic and they were finding a way in.”

It just proves how slim the margin of error is in the playoffs.  On the whole, the Rangers didn’t play that badly — especially on offence — and they counter-punched every jab from the Peach Kings.   The first period ended in a 2-2 deadlock as Terry Bridgland (more on his goal in a bit) and Owen Johnston traded tallies with Grimsby’s  Ljuboja and Blake Venneri.   Justin Vermeulen put Glanbrook ahead at 1:28 of the second period, but the raucous celebration by the Glanbrook partisans in the stands was short-lived as Liam Schwedyk equalized less than a minute later.

Bridgland’s goal was one of those SportsCentre highlight gems.  The Rangers’ centre took a pass in full flight and, at lightning speed as he neared the Grimsby net, put a between-the-legs shot past Nico Balice.   It was an electrifying effort that could have been just the catalyst to lift the Rangers.  But it wasn’t, at least not for long.  There was still that sense that something was missing, that things just weren’t clicking and that one inopportune accident could be fatal.

And that moment came with the Grimsby power play chance in the third stanza when Ljuboja connected on his second goal, followed (after the aforementioned nullified Glanbrook goal) by an empty-net marker by Schwedyk, also his second of the contest.

The Rangers get another chance at that celebration in Game 5, which goes on Wednesday, Apr. 12 at 7:30 pm, Glanbrook Arena.  And the key to victory, said Tait, will be the proverbial question:  ‘Who wants it more?’

“We knew they weren’t going to lie down,” he said of the Peach Kings.  “They came with the attitude that they didn’t want their season to end.  We just didn’t match their intensity.”

NOTES:  Rangers captain and leading scorer Sean Golebiowski was out of the lineup, serving the first of his two-game suspension for having incurred three goalie interference penalties in a season … Defenceman Josh Lindsay was also sidelined with an injury.  … Grimsby’s two power-play goals were the first they have scored in the series.  The Rangers have only one.

PHOTOS