By: Ben Browne
After an impressive 6-3 season-opening win over the Caledon Admirals on October 3, the North York Rangers got set to begin a difficult four-game-in-five-day stretch, the first of two such sequences in the opening two weeks of the season. Three of those games would be road games, all on consecutive nights, starting with their rivals down the 407, the Toronto Patriots.
RANGERS at PATRIOTS – WED., OCT 6
The Rangers second game of the season, and the first of this grueling stretch of play, signaled the first career OJHL start for rookie goaltender Hardy Westman. The Stratford, ON native was spectacular in his debut – perfect, in fact – picking up a shutout in his first game as a Ranger.
After a scoreless opening frame, the Rangers took the lead nearly eight minutes into the second on Nate Kellenberger’s first of the season. Chris Castrignano and Goerge Fegaras drew the assists on the game’s opening goal. That gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead, which they owned through the remainder of the second period. In the third, North York added to its lead on a goal by Anthony Piccininno approaching the halfway mark of the period. The first of two on the evening for the 17-year-old doubled the Rangers’ lead to 2-0.
Then, with just over four minutes to play, Piccininno’s second of the game and season iced it for the visitors as the Rangers took it 3-0 to move to 2-0 on the year.
RANGERS at JR. CANADIENS – THU., OCT 7
The Rangers were back at it Thursday night at Scotiabank Pond against a fellow undefeated team, the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. It was the home team getting on the board first in this one, as Jeremy Bigras potted his third goal in as many games, and just over five minutes in, the Rangers found themselves behind.
Still 1-0 early in the second, Toronto added to the lead on a goal by Eric Vitale, who was coming off a hat trick in the Canadiens’ last game, to make it 2-0. Though the Rangers were down, however, they weren’t out.
Jackson Edwards got them on the board with his first of the year with more than nine minutes left in the second. Assists on the goal went to Isa Parekh and Kellenberger. Then, less than a minute after that, North York was back on level terms thanks to Alex Dimitriadis. He beat Canadiens’ netminder Selby Warren to tie it up with assists from Kellenberger and Fegaras. Under 90 seconds into the 3rd, the Rangers would complete the comeback. Jack Rimmer netted the go-ahead goal at 1:22 of the final frame with help from Aydin Perekh and Max Donohoe, and the Rangers held off the Canadiens to stay perfect on the young campaign.
James Gray, back in net for North York after sitting out the previous night, stopped 32 of 34 pucks sent his direction as the Rangers picked up a gritty 3-2 come-from-behind win to hand the Canadiens their first loss of the season.
RANGERS at BUZZERS – FRI., OCT 8
The final game of this three-game road swing for the Rangers took place at St. Mike’s against the 1-1 Buzzers. St. Michael’s struck first in this one on Bryce Sutherland’s third of the year to make it 1-0 Buzzers. The Rangers would tie it, on the power play thanks to captain Jack Condotta – his first of the year and the first goal from a Ranger blueliner this season – with just over eight minutes left in the first.
In the second, Max Donohoe gave the Rangers the lead with his 3rd of the season after scoring two in the season-opener against Caledon. Then, the Ranger 4th line went to work to add to the lead. Chris Castrignano potted his first of the year past Cole Moore to give his team a 3-1 lead.
But the Buzzers kept buzzing, and would trim the gap on a Brandon Cohen power play marker just beyond the game’s halfway mark, making it 3-2. St. Mike’s wasn’t done there, as Sutherland buried his 4th goal in his last two games, once again evening the score – this time at 3.
The Rangers didn’t allow that adversity to get to them, and with just under eight minutes to play, Luca Rea scored the winner, his second on the year, to secure North York’s fourth consecutive win to open the season.
HUSKIES at RANGERS – SUN., OCT 10
The Rangers were glad to be home after three straight on the road as they welcomed in the Haliburton County Huskies (formerly the Whitby Warriors) for a pre-turkey Thanksgiving Sunday matinee at the Herb.
The Rangers got off to a quick start in this one as Rimmer his second of the year, backhanding a loose puck in the blue paint by AP starter Tyler Hodges to make it 1-0 North York just 31 seconds in.
They held that lead through the remainder of the first. Early in the second, Haliburton County’s Patrick Saini scored his first, a power play goal on a well-placed shot past Westman to tie it up. That was the first goal allowed by Westman in his OJHL career after the shutout against the Patriots.
Still in the middle stanza, Saini was back at it, this time jamming home puck at the side of the net to give the guests a 2-1 lead. The Rangers struggled to do much of anything over the final two periods, the best chance coming on a Zach Ophoven breakaway in the second, but he couldn’t beat Hodges. After generating 16 shots in the first period, the Rangers put up just 19 over the final two. The Huskies put the game away on an empty netter by their leading scorer, Oliver Tarr, with just 24 seconds left.
That secured the first loss of the season for the Rangers, who are home Wednesday (Oct 13) against the Wellington Dukes at 8:00pm. That game begins another four-in-five stretch for the club, with contests in Caledon Thursday and Mississauga Saturday before coming back home Sunday afternoon to play the Buzzers.