By Jamie Neugebauer
Matthew Whittaker added three points and Andrew Cipollone made 24 saves as the North York Rangers cruised past the Burlington Cougars 5-2 on Sunday.
Gabriel Valenzuela and Ryan Takamtasu also had two points each as the Rangers have now won five of their last six contests, and sit only two points out of first place in the South Division.
Afterward, North York assistant coach David Mooney was pleased with his club’s effort, especially in light of the difficult 4-2 defeat at Wellington on Friday.
“There were definitely a ton of positives to take from this game,” Mooney said.
“I thought our overall jump showed that we had more energy than Friday, and being a young team I think we really thrive on that, that we need to be buzzing and to be working hard all over the ice. Today was just a much better effort overall.”
Valenzuela opened the scoring 1:36 into the game when a centring pass from Whittaker banked off of him and past Burlington net minder Joe Noonan on the power play.
Nick Zanette doubled the lead at 3:12 of the opening frame by blasting a one-timer off a nice centring feed from Cam Stajer, and then Whittaker got in on the goals himself with a slap shot from the slot that Noonan could only get a piece of.
Anthony Paveglio notched his first career Ontario Junior Hockey League goal in the second period when Whittaker sent the rookie defender in alone on a breakaway that he neatly buried at 17:41.
David Thomson got one back for Burlington off a turnover with 18 seconds left in the middle frame, and Nathan Fiorino’s long blast at 17:56 of the third was the only real blemish on Cipollone’s record as ultimately it was too little, too late for the Cougars.
Jeremy Szabo slapped home an empty netter with 22 seconds left on the clock.
“Offence has not really been a problem with us, we certainly have plenty of skill,” Mooney said.
“We’re more focused on tightening up defensively, not allowing the other team as many chances. At times today we were taking too many risks when we shouldn’t have, but two goals against, we’ll take that and look to keep getting better.”
“It was awesome for him,” Mooney said regarding Cipollone, who registered his first career OJHL victory.
“He is a great kid, a great guy to be around, and he brings a positive attitude to the rink every time he shows up. We wanted that one big time for him, and he made a couple key saves that might have made it a different game had he let those in. So hats off to him.”
The Rangers are back in action next Thursday evening when they travel to Newmarket to take on the Hurricanes. Puck drops at 7:30 at Twinney Rink 1.