TRENTON, ON - NOVEMBER 26: James Gray #30 of the North York Rangers mask waits for first period play at the Duncan McDonald Memorial Gardens on November 26, 2021 in Ontario, Canada (Photo by Amy Deroche / OJHL Images)
December 30, 2021

1:26 PM EST


The North York Rangers entered the 2021-22 season without any expectations.

548 days and a cancelled season later, they were just happy to finally be able to safely return to playing the game they loved. October 3rd was the day head coach Geoff Schomogyi, newly-acquired veteran defenceman and captain Jaden Condotta, and company were eagerly awaiting.

And, just like that, it was game day, as the club prepared to host the Caledon Admirals, who relocated from Brampton in July. The Rangers put up a very strong effort that day. They amassed six goals and 50 shots in a 6-3 win, and were backstopped in goal by a 23-save performance from veteran nettminder James Gray.

It didn’t take the team long to put the rest of the league on notice that they would be a force to be reckoned with this season, and one of the top contenders for a Buckland Cup come the springtime. Amidst the rigours of a jam-packed early-season schedule, the Rangers were up to the task. Over their first nine games – played over a 15-day period – North York racked up an 8-1 record, with their only blemish being a 3-1 home-ice defeat at the hands of the Haliburton Huskies.

Overall for the month of October, the blueshirts compiled an 11-3-1 record that included splitting a pair of games at the annual OJHL Governors Showcase tournament in Cobourg. That included a game one last to Haliburton 4-1, before they beat the host Cobourg Cougars by that same score the next day. Gray earned the Warrior OJHL Goaltender of the month for October, posting a 7-1-1 record and a 2.11 goals against average.

As the calendar flipped to November, the Rangers found themselves atop the South Division with 23 points, four ahead of the rapidly-approaching Toronto Jr Canadiens. However, as the month wound down, there were some cracks in the Rangers’ foundation beginning to form. From that first Showcase game on Oct. 26-Nov. 7, the team lost four of five games, and scored just seven goals over that span.

After that rough five-game stretch, they rediscovered their mojo. From Nov. 12 through the rest of the month, the team went 6-2. The highlight among those six wins was a 4-3 OT victory over Haliburton at home on Nov. 14. The Rangers trailed 3-0 midway through the second period before coming back to win 4-3 thanks in large part to two goals from Anthony Piccininno – including the game winner.

The good times kept on rolling for North York as the final month of 2021 arrived. They began the month with a 4-2 win over Caledon, followed two games later by a 10-2 victory over the Admirals. They skated into the holiday hiatus undefeated in their last seven games – a 6-0-1 record, including 5-0-1 in December. They also haven’t lost in their last seven home games, the best mark in the OJHL. Their last home ice loss was Nov. 7 vs. St. Mike’s.

Individually, Max Donohoe leads the team in points and goals at the end of the unofficial first half of the season, with 13 goals, 16 assists and 29 points. He’s one goal ahead of Zach Ophoven. Condotta and George Fegaras are tied for 2nd (25) and 3rd (24), respectively in points by defencemen, while Wilson Farrow is tied for the league lead in goals by blueliners with eight. The Rangers also boast the best goaltending tandem in the OJHL. Gray is tied for second in the league in wins with 15, while Hardy Westmen has seven. They are both tied for the league lead in shutouts with three each. Gray is first (1.69) in goals against average, while Westman is just two spots behind (1.85); Gray’s .938 save percentage is tops in the league while Westman’s mark of .928 is good for third.

The Rangers return to the ice Dec. 28 with a huge game against the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, as those two teams battle for South Division supremacy. Their first game on home ice out of the break is scheduled for Jan. 2 when the Trenton Golden Hawks come to town for their first of two visits to the Herb this season.