Matthew Whittaker scored in his return to the lineup but it was not enough as the North York Rangers were eliminated from the 2014-15 OJHL playoffs with a 3-2 defeat to the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in Game 6 on Sunday.
Gianluca Baggetta was brilliant in net once again for the Rangers making 31 saves, and kept North York in the game even though it was outshot for sixth-straight time in the series.
Rangers’ head coach Mark Joslin was pleased with the effort that his club put forth in the series post-game.
“I am very proud,” Joslin said.
“I thought we had a very good playoffs, and a couple of bounces here or there go our way, maybe it’s a different story. I thought our compete level, and our resilience against a very good, disciplined team was very good. I think we definitely took them to the brink, and when our guys bought in to what we wanted from them, we were either as good as them, or at least very close. “
Nick Zanette opened the scoring in the contest with a perfectly aimed blast from the left circle at the 15:12-mark of the first period.
Whittaker, who served a mid-series three-game suspension for game-misconduct accumulation that he acquired in Game 2, patiently waited for Toronto goaltender Daniel Lopapa to go down, and then beat him short side to cut the Jr. Canadiens’ lead to 3-2 with less than 13 minutes remaining in the third period.
Unfortunately for the host Rangers, Toronto’s three goals in the second period held up as the hosts could not find an equalizer.
The North York player that likely made the biggest name for himself in the series was the 19-year-old Baggetta, who made an average of 42 saves-per-game over the six contests.
“I said it all year: he’s one of the most focused, disciplined goaltenders I’ve coached over my many years,” Joslin said.
“He definitely got himself noticed, especially in the second half of that series. He gave us a chance to win every night, we just couldn’t get enough goals.”
Four different Rangers played in their final junior hockey game on the evening, as Gabriel Valenzuela, Matthew Whittaker, Brett Seldon, and Zach Fung will all be moving on from the organization.
On the flip side, North York can expect a very large number of returnees from the 2014-15 group, and the lessons learned from this year will hopefully be carried over to make next year a very big success.
“I think the guys learned that chemistry doesn’t just come without hard work,” said Joslin.
“It has to come from within, and when everyone was buying in and accepting roles, we were a very good, competitive hockey team. I’m not sure we were consistent enough in that respect as a whole unit, so that’s one thing I learned – to identify roles early in the year, and I think that will help for the chemistry moving forward for this organization.”