By Jamie Neugebauer
After missing over a month of hockey, it could be forgiven of Rangers goaltender Jason Pucciarelli if he was not at his best in his return on Sunday.
Fortunately for North York nobody told him, as he was spectacular, backstopping the Rangers to a solid bounce-back 5-2 victory at home against Milton.
After the game, captain Dana Tenenbaum credited Pucciarelli’s strong play for the confidence with which the team attacked.
“He’s well rested so he should play well,” Tenenbaum joked.
“But seriously, he had a huge game and because of that we had the confidence to take more risks moving forward and it made a big difference.”
John Carpino led the Rangers offensively, scoring the game-winner at 11:54 of the second period when Milton captain Justin DeVincentis turned the puck over to him right front of the IceHawks net.
Corey Kalk, Ryan Kinsella, Liam Kerins and Zach Fung also added goals for North York.
After Ranger wins of 8-5, 9-5 and 7-4 over Milton to start the years’ series, the last two meetings between the two teams have been much closer with North York holding a combined advantage of 7-4 over that span.
“At the start of the year they fore-checked hard, but kind of without purpose,” Tenenbaum said, regarding why the IceHawks have been more competitive of late.
“The last two games they seem to have a bit more of a system in place, they are more controlled and they didn’t ship off their key pieces at the trade deadline so maybe they have a little extra in their step as a result of the confidence they feel the coaches have in them.”
The victory moves the Rangers back into sole possession of second place in the South Division, two points behind the Toronto Lakeshore Patriots and two ahead of the St. Michael’s Buzzers.
North York is next in action on Wednesday evening when they get a chance at revenge at Georgetown.