Michael Morgan notched the winner off a brilliant feed from Gabriel Valenzuela at the 19:15-mark of overtime as the North York Rangers cut the Toronto Jr. Canadiens’ series lead to 2-1 with a dramatic 6-5 victory on Monday.
With the puck high in the air, Valenzuela jumped up, grabbed it, put it down and passed to Morgan for a tap-in, all in one motion.
Afterward, North York head coach Mark Joslin was simply thrilled to finally find a way to defeat the Jr. Canadiens, after failing six-straight times in the regular season and playoffs.
“They’re obviously our nemesis and have dominated us this year, even though we’ve been in a bunch of games,” he said.
“We were 0-6 and it was great to get the monkey off our back, and to do it in their rink, in dramatic fashion like this, is definitely sweet. If we lose that game down three, it would have been quite a hill. It is a great win.”
The two teams traded wild momentum swings in a crazy first period.
Anthony Repaci opened the scoring for Toronto 5:59 into the contest when he pulled the puck out of the corner and beat North York net minder Gianluca Baggetta on the short side.
Nick Zanette responded by banking one in from a bad angle at 8:12, and then Morgan scored his first of the game on a rebound to give the Rangers a lead 40 seconds later.
A Ryan Takamatsu deflection off an Anthony Paveglio point shot was sandwiched by two goals from Jr. Canadiens’ veteran forward Justin Maolino, and then a Valenzuela breakaway goal just over a minute after that put North York ahead once again.
Takamatsu jammed in a nice feed from Luke Kutkevicius with a mere seven seconds remaining in the opening frame to conclude the scoring in the period.
Repaci scored 1:06 into the second, and then Maolino got his hat trick goal on a rebound at the exact same mark of the third, to send the contest into overtime.
A huge key for the North York ability to find a way to win the game was the play of Baggetta, who made 47 often difficult saves, and really settled down after the first period.
“He’s a very committed, focused young man,” Joslin said of the 19-year-old goaltender.
“For him to beat the JRC is huge because he started five of those loses. I think it might have been in his head a bit, but all that hard work and dedication paid off.”
The two teams return to action Wednesday evening at the Herb Carnegie Centennial Arena, where the Rangers will hope to even the series at two. Game 5 will go Thursday night at Scotiabank Pond.