By Jamie Neugebauer
Jake Harris scored his first career Ontario Junior Hockey League goal but it was not enough as the North York Rangers (1-1-0-0) dropped their first game of the season by a count of 5-2 to the Whitby Fury (1-0-0-0) on Sunday afternoon.
Matthew Whittaker had the other goal for the hosts while Gianluca Baggetta made 19 saves in the loss.
North York head coach Mark Joslin was realistic about his club afterward.
“If we do not stick to systems and we try to do things individually we’re going to be just an average hockey team,” he said.
“It was a good lesson for us tonight. We were not ready and we got beat by a team that isn’t better than us, but was certainly hungrier.”
Matt Fischer opened the scoring for the Fury a mere 1:24 into the game when his wrist shot from the slot beat Baggetta clean.
Both clubs missed first-period penalty-shot attempts, with North York’s Zack Fisher and Whitby’s Ryan Kirkup unable to find the mark at the 3:53 and 8:18-marks, respectively.
Fury forward Henry Thompson got his first of two on the day by jamming in a rebound on a 2-on-1 at 12:00 of the first, and then William Ward’s long wrister 10:31 into the second fooled Baggetta and gave Whitby a 3-0 lead.
Whittaker got one back for the Rangers by pouncing on a lose puck after a Will Reilly’s point shot was not handled by Fury goaltender Tyler Feaver at 12:04 of the second, and then Harris brought the hosts within one by banging in a rebound of his own just over three minutes later.
Both goals came on the power play.
“We noticed right away that they were very aggressive on the penalty kill,” said Joslin.
“What we needed to do was just simplify and get pucks on net. Both the goals were goal line, second-effort types. You aren’t going to get pretty power play goals against teams like Whitby that pressure like that on the ‘PK’, so once we figured it out it was a good positive to get some dirty goals.
But the North York rally fizzled early in the third period as a tip-in goal by Thompson 31 seconds in, and a two-on-none converted by Mitch Emerson at 15:20, effectively put the game to bed.
For Joslin, the biggest area that needed improvement was simplifying the game and a better focus on puck support.
“All we have to do is get pucks deep and use our speed,” he said.
“We tried to do way too much in the neutral zone with guys carrying pucks by themselves, if we simplify and gets puck deep and crash their defence, I know we can be successful against anybody in this league.”
The Rangers conclude the opening weekend of the season with a win and a loss and are back in action Friday night when they travel to Trenton to take on the Golden Hawks, puck drops at 7:30 p.m.