By Jamie Neugebauer
Corey Kalk scored twice and added a helper while Adam Valadao and John Carpino each chipped in two points as the North York Rangers downed the Oakville Blades 4-1 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven playoff.
More than anything, Rangers’ head coach John Dean was happy after the game with the character level his troops displayed.
“I thought we came out flying in the first,” he said after the game.
“But I thought we got away from our game plan a bit but I love the character and the response of our guys. I thought that despite the fact that it was ugly in the second and third periods the effort our guys put out shows that they get it, they get what we’re looking for.”
Kalk got the ball rolling for North York 16:37 in on the power play when Valadao made a composed play with the puck in the slot, finding him at the side of the net for an easy tap in.
Taylor Pryce made it 2-0 at 18:41 when Michael Giacometti’s wrist shot from the point hit him and bounced past Blades goaltender Evan Buitenhuis.
Valadao’s bad angle shot in the second period bounced in off of an Oakville player to make it three and then Kalk dove to fire the puck into the empty net with two seconds remaining in the third.
For the better part of the third period, the Rangers elected to collapse down in front of goaltender Jason Pucciarelli’s net to rebuff the Blades’ desperate onslaught.
Although this strategy allowed Oakville to maintain a great deal of possession and dominate the scoring chances in that final frame, Dean was encouraged by what he saw.
“I thought Pucciarelli came up large,” he said, “and I thought the defencemen were great at blocking shots. We like to be passive against these guys, take lanes away and not be over-aggressive because they’re so good with the puck.”
North York stifled the vaunted Blades power play (the second best in league in the regular season), forcing them to go 0-for-5, while scoring twice with the man-advantage themselves.
The Rangers now head to Oakville for Game 2 on Friday night before returning back to the Herb on Sunday afternoon for Game 3.