By Jamie Neugebauer
Back on Oct. 25, 2012 when the Rangers acquired Jason Pucciarelli from Hamilton, they felt like they were acquiring one of the premiere goaltenders in the league.
On Sunday afternoon he continued to prove them right by putting up a dominant performance, preserving a 2-0 North York shutout over the Toronto Jr. Canadiens.
After the game, Rangers head coach John Dean raved about the 19-year-old net-minder.
“Pooch is a monster,” Dean said.
“Second period he saved us, we didn’t deserve to be in that game after the second, but that’s what good teams do. He saved us, and we bounced back in the third period to get the win. Pooch saved our bacon.”
Liam Kerins got the ball rolling for the boys in blue at the 8:06 mark of the first period when his wrist shot bounced in off the glove of Toronto goaltender Denny Dubblestyne.
Kerins then got his second on the power play at 8:05 of the third frame when he directed a perfect shot-pass from Brody Power into the net.
The Caledon-native has been fantastic of late, to the tune of five goals and 10 points in the last 10 games.
“Over the last few games he has been one of our best players,” Dean said of Kerins.
“He’s been shooting the puck like crazy, moving his feet and if he keeps shooting the puck like he is right now then the sky really is the limit for him in terms of goals.”
The tight-checking, intense nature of the game resulted in nine power plays for the Canadiens, yet the Rangers put on a penalty-killing clinic, severely limiting Toronto’s quality scoring chances.
After Friday night in Oakville where the Blades scored three with the man-advantage, Dean was pleased with the adjustments his charges made.
“In Oakville we talked about getting in lanes; on all three of their goals we didn’t get in the lane at all,” he said.
“We really focused on playing the stick and not the body tonight and I thought the guys did a good job of doing that, blocking shots and paying the price. The penalty kill was huge but your best penalty killer is always your goaltender.”
With the victory, the Rangers remain in first place in the division for the time being, and second in the conference, with five games remaining in the regular season.
On Saturday they travel to Orangeville to take on the Flyers, before returning home Sunday afternoon to battle the Hamilton Red Wings at 3 pm at the Herb.