No series was ever won in a game; but winning Game 1 sure helps.
Nick Campoli whipped home the winner at 16:33 of the first overtime period from the slot as the North York Rangers edged the Georgetown Raiders 4-3 in Game 1 of their Round 2 series Thursday.
Gianluca Baggetta was once again spectacular in net for North York, with the 20-year-old making 50 often-difficult stops in front of a hostile Georgetown crowd.
Rangers’ head coach Brent Hughes was thrilled for the 16-year-old Campoli post-game.
“It really is about time he got rewarded,” Hughes said.
“For a 99 he was once again an absolute warrior for us out there tonight. That whole line (Campoli between Keegan Blasby and Ted Hunt) stepped up tonight, and was great. I would like to take away our second period, but this is going to be one of those series that is going to go back and forth, I anticipate that it is going to be a long series, so it’s nice to grab the first one.”
That line’s presence was felt early, as Campoli curled off the right point with the puck, fired a wrist shot toward the net, and watched as the puck caromed off Blasby’s foot and in for the first goal of the contest at the 9:03-mark of the opening frame.
North York struggled in its own zone in the second period, being outshot 18-9, and were punished for it.
Brendan Jacome, the older of two brothers on the Raiders, wired home a perfectly placed one-timer from the left half-wall over Baggetta’s left shoulder 4:44 into the middle period to tie it.
Brendan then received a neat little give-and-go with his brother Jack less than two minutes later on a Georgetown power play, and beat Baggetta from a tight angle to give the Raiders their first lead of the contest.
Yet the Rangers came out the better team in the third, and a Jake Payette turnover to the tape of Blasby turned into a goal on a long-hard wrister at 9:29 that Georgetown goaltender Andrew Masters could not see with Hunt in his line of sight.
An offensive-zone turnover with just over five minutes remaining in regulation gave Ashur Elliot an easy tap-in on a three-on-one to give the Raiders the late lead; but Chris Sekelyk’s laser from a sharp angle with 32 seconds left on the clock set up Campoli’s final heroics.
Hunt’s centering feed from the corner bounced off a Georgetown defender and right to the tape of North York’s wonder-rookie Campoli, and he made no mistake to send the Ranger bench into hysteria.
It was Campoli’s first goal of the post-season, despite a tremendous showing against the Jr. Sabres in Round 1.
Blasby added four points in total on the night, but despite the heroics at the offensive end, Baggetta’s brilliance in the North York end cannot be overlooked.
“He is showing why he is one of the top goaltenders in the league,” said Hughes.
“You need strong goaltending going forward in the playoffs, and he is really giving our guys confidence.”
The Rangers will look to build on that momentum in Game 2 on Saturday, as they travel back to Georgetown looking for a similar result. Puck drops at Alcott Arena at 7:30.