PORT DOVER (Nov. 13) — A pair of victories extended the Glanbrook Rangers’ winning streak to nine games and widened their margin atop the Bloomfield Division to a robust eight points as they opened the weekend in Dunnville with a 5-1 triumph over the Mudcats, then followed that up with a Sunday matinee in Port Dover where they prevailed 7-3.
The Sailors have emerged as Glanbrook’s principal rival in the Bloomfield this season, particularly with the (for now) fading fortunes of the Grimsby Peach Kings. That added extra heft to the mid-day meeting. The Sailors, at least inititally, were up for the challenge and the game early on escalated to a speedy pace, with the Rangers holding a slight edge while generating a few choice opportunities.
“We are always looking to come out fast and strong and just deflate them,” said Ryan Burke. “Our plan is to play as a unit and not five individuals. We gain a lot of success when we work as a team.”
The Rangers put that program into stunning effect. With cobra-like quickness, they struck for three goals in 99 seconds to leave the Sailors in a state of shock and chase starting goalie Caleb Ursu from the net. Tyler Smeda started the blitz off with a point shot that found the target at 5:45, a feat duplicated by Daniel Vella at 7:08. Then Burke chipped a goalmouth pass behind Ursu at 7:24 for his ninth goal of the campaign.
“After that first goal, we were able to find our rhythm and keep piling them on,” said Smeda, whose goal was his first of the year. “They kept their forwards low and that opened up a lot of space above the circles, which gave us lots of scoring chances.”
The early setback forced the Sailors to open up and they tried for the fast strike to get back into the game. And it looked like it might just work when Port Dover’s Gavyn Buch was sprung on a 2-0 break and managed to squeeze the puck past Glanbrook netminder Tiago Rocha to cut the margin to 3-1 at 2:22 of the second stanza.
Now, in the past, it has often been the case in games in Port Dover where the Rangers have taken an early lead, then struggle (and sometimes fail) to hang on. But this time was different. The Rangers found another gear and before long Ethan Cloutier and Eric Taylor had counter-punched to extend Glanbrook’s lead to a cozy 5-1. All they had to do now was finish out the final 20 minutes. Taylor’s goal was his and the Rangers’ second short-handed marker of the season.
But there’s a reason Port Dover has been challenging Glanbrook for the division lead. They refused to quit and came out like gangbusters in the third period.
“We were expecting them to come out flying,” said Smeda. “But we seemed to play comfortable, which you can never do in this league. That allowed them to pot a couple of goals, but we woke up and continued to apply the pressure like in the first two periods.”
Nick D’Agostino started the Sailors mini-uprising just 53 seconds in the the third, and Connor MacPhee repeated the exploit at 9:12. Despite the ominous atmosphere, however, Rocha, took a philosophical approach to the task at hand.
“Goals are a part of the game, so you just have to accept that you are going to get scored on,” he said. “After their third goal, I just took a deep breath and got ready for the next play.”
And it seemed that fortune favoured the brave in this instance, because the Rangers got one of those little godsends that took the wind right out of the Sailors. Cooper Hood, who has been on fire lately with 11 goals in his last nine games, drifted a seemingly harmless shot toward the Port Dover net. But Ursu (who was back at his post) had his stick angled badly and the puck struck it, arched up over his head and bounced behind him and into the net for the mortal blow.
A little bit of luck, perhaps, but also the product of determination, said Burke.
“The game plan doesn’t change,” he said. “We always try to put together a full 60 minutes and just stay focused. We were expecting that final push and we just had to come out and play better and push back and turn the game in our favour.”
Eric Bridgwater added a little insurance late in the proceedings to perpetuate the Rangers’ season-high nine-game streak.
On Friday, meanwhile, the Rangers got their eighth straight win on goals from Burke, Karter Doohan, Justin Vermeulen, Sean Golebiowski and Chase Johnson as they topped the Mudcats 5-1. Jason Sviergula made 28 saves to keep his record unblemished at 7-0 for the season.