By Jamie Neugebauer
There is nothing that makes coaches happier then when their team buys in; and that’s what the Rangers did on Sunday afternoon.
Although they ended up falling 4-3 in a shootout at the Herb to the plucky Toronto Jr. Canadiens, the Rangers battled all night with a playoff mentality.
And North York head coach John Dean could not be more pleased after the game.
“Best game we’ve played all year,” he said outside the Rangers locker room.
“I could not be happier with the way my team played. The scoreboard does not show and we deserved better, but that’s hockey.”
Corey Kalk tore down the right wing and used the space given by the backed off Junior Canadiens defenders at 11:02 of the first period to tie the game up at one after Toronto had gone ahead early.
Then Adam Valadao scored his second in as many games at 12:54 of the second period to tie the game up again, this time at two, when he deflected in a Liam Kerins point-shot on the power play.
Liam Kerins demonstrated the “NHL-calibre shot” that he possesses, according to Dean, at 12:12 of the third to tie the game up for a third time after North York had fallen behind with under four minutes remaining in the second period.
“If Kerins shot the puck more he’d have about 90 goals,” Dean said.
“All he has got to do is shoot the puck more; when he does that he is going to score goals. He has been playing great the last month or so, he’s been unbelievable.”
Call-up and minor midget All-Star goaltender Andrew Cippolone came in 12 minutes into the first period and was spectacular, stopping 32 of 33 shots in his first ever junior appearance.
“I had no problem putting him in,” Dean said.
“Obviously his head coach is one of my assistants in Coach Hughes, who has done a great job with those guys. I thought he played fantastic for us, I thought the guys really rallied around him, and for his first game, a shootout after OT, I guess he’s gone through it all now and it’s good for him.”
With the point, North York moves into a tie for first place in the South Division with the St. Michael’s Buzzers.
The Rangers finished the month getting points in all but one game in the month, not losing in regulation since Dec. 1.
For Dean, however, it’s now all about preparing his team to play playoff hockey.
“After today’s game I am very happy,” he said concerning North York’s development as a group.
“If that is how my team treats a playoff game we’re in for a fun February, March and maybe even April.”