DUNDAS (Mar. 24) — The Glanbrook Rangers hung in for two periods, but faltered in the final frame as they dropped a 4-1 decision to the Dundas Blues in the opening game of their South Bloomfield Division semifinal series.
It would be difficult to find two more evenly matched teams than the Rangers and the Blues: they finished the regular season with similar records (Dundas finished with 39 points to Glanbrook’s 38); they essentially split their five meetings during the campaign, which with the exception of one Rangers’ blowout were all decided by a goal. So it figured to be more of the same in the post-season.
And for the first 40 minutes, that was the case. There was no real overarching theme or identity to the contest as both teams seemed to struggle to establish a flow. The Rangers held the advantage in puck possession and had more shots, though few of them could really be rated as threatening. Even Dundas’s opening goal scored when J.D. McNeil floated a shot through a screen while the Blues were on a power play at 11:01, seemed more of a surprise than a trend.
All in all, the feeling was that the outcome would hinge on one crucial moment. And so it did, but unfortunately for Glanbrook the advantage went to Dundas.
“It would have been a different game if we had been able to capitalize on our opportunities,” said Rangers’ coach Andrew Tait. “They cashed in on their chances, and we just didn’t. They didn’t let up, and we did.”
The turning point came a couple of minutes into the third period when Dundas’ James Almeida pounced on a mishandled puck at his team’s blueline, swept down the left side and beat Rangers’ goalie Ethan Cook, who had made a superhuman save during the second frame to keep the Rangers hopes alive. That seemed to open the gates and John Michael Milinkovic and Riley Zimmerman exploited further Ranger lapses to push the margin to 4-0 by the midway point of the stanza.
The Rangers tried to keep up the pressure, but were never able to establish a rhythm and although Tyler Mulholland managed to break the shutout bid by Blues’ goalie Ethan Labbe, it came far too late to make a difference.
NOTES: The Rangers outshot Dundas 41-29 in the game … The Rangers’ penalty-killing was largely effective, holding Dundas to a 1-for-8 tally, but their power play was unable to produce anything on five opportunities, including three in the second period when the game still hung in the balance.