By Jamie Neugebauer
There is no shooter hotter in the Ontario Junior Hockey League than Liam Kerins right now. Period.
Kerins had two more goals, including the winner in overtime, as the North York Rangers remained perfect in 2014 with a 3-2 victory over their archrivals the St. Michael’s Buzzers on Sunday afternoon.
After the game, Rangers bench boss John Dean remarked on the man who has amassed 10 goals and 16 points in the last eight games.
“Liam Kerins never fails to amaze me and everyone around the league, I think,” Dean said, “if people haven’t noticed him yet, I don’t know what they’re waiting for.”
Jake Evans opened the scoring at 1:14 of the first period, beating North York net minder Jason Pucciarelli to the short side to give the Buzzers the early lead.
Kerins replied at 11:49 of the second period when he unleashed one of his patented one-timers on the power play, and then Brandon Gaudette gave the Rangers their first lead of the game with a one-timed blast of his own under two minutes later.
CJ Shugart jammed in a loose puck to tie the game for St. Mike’s at 8:50 of the third period, but Kerins came up big again in the extra frame with a wrist shot that beat a helpless Victor Adamo in the top part of the net.
The Rangers have now won four in a row for the first time this season are unbeaten in regulation since Dec. 8, a span of eight games.
“I think our team is super confident,” Dean said. “I think we played a good game tonight. I don’t even think the guys recognize that it’s overtime, they are just believing in each other and playing and expecting to win each night. It’s a huge sign as a coach when the guys expect to win – you can see it in their body language and demeanour.”
After opening the season 0-for-5 in overtime games, North York has now won three in a row in contests that go to the extra frame.
“The guys found a way to win,” Dean added, “I thought Jason Pucciarelli made some clutch saves and with leaders like Brody Power and Patrick Piacentini throwing their body at pucks and leading by example like that, it’s hard for other guys not to follow.”
The Rangers now sit alone in second place in the South Division and fourth in the Southwest Conference, only one point behind the Buffalo Jr. Sabres for third.
They are next in action on Wednesday night when they host the Lindsay Muskies, puck drops at 8 p.m.