Three different Rangers scored their first goals for the club as North York opened the 2015-16 Ontario Junior Hockey League campaign with a 5-2 victory over the two-time defending Buckland Cup champion Toronto Patriots on Sunday.
Ryan Hunt, Grayden Gottschalk, and Adam Giacomin all opened their North York accounts on the afternoon, while veteran Gianluca Baggetta made 26 saves to earn his 39th career OJHL victory.
A big key on the evening was the play of the all-rookie line of Hunt, Gottschalk, and Dean Rayner, which combined for six points on the contest.
“I was very happy with those guys,” said North York head coach Brent Hughes post-game.
This is a season to rebuild and I am very happy with my younger players so far. I don’t want to really look at the numbers of the lines right now, everybody is kind of earning their spot, and everyone is going to play and get that chance. If someone isn’t playing, it’ll be because he isn’t doing something right. I am going to give everyone an opportunity to show what they can do, so it’s on them to show that they can be consistent.”
Hunt opened the scoring 8:10 into the second period when he jammed in a rebound from a Rayner shot in tight.
Gottschalk got his first career junior goal almost four minutes later, firing a perfectly aimed shot over the right shoulder of Toronto goaltender Jacob Standen to give North York a 2-0 lead.
Nicholas Ursitti got two chip-ins under two minutes apart late in the middle frame to tie the game for the Pats, but Giacomin blasted home a one-timer from the slot at 4:02 of the third period on the power play to put the Rangers back up for good.
Jake Harris’ long wrister went off the glove of Toronto captain Tyler Currie and in on the same double-minor power play, 39 seconds later.
“You get those opportunities by working hard,” said Hughes of the Rangers’ ability to draw seven penalties on the game.
“You could tell the Patriots were getting a little frustrated, the mindset is that our guys refuse to get outworked. That is our identity going forward, and of course there are still some things to work on, but we make our adjustments. It’s great to cash on those couple chances and they turned out to be the difference in the game.”
Michael Morgan put the contest out of reach when he converted his own one-timer from in tight on a nice feed from Keegan Blasby at 15:18 of the final stanza.
The Rangers fired a whopping 42 shots at the rookie Standen, while Ursitti was the only Patriot with more than one point on the night.
North York is back in action on Wednesday night when it travels to Mississauga to take on the Chargers, puck drops at 8:15 at Port Credit Arena.
Notes: North York rookie Jonathan Hampton was in attendance after obtaining his release from Owen Sound in the Ontario Hockey League, and should be available for Wednesday … The victory gives the Rangers their first win in a home opener since Sept. 12, 2010, when they won 10-1 vs. the Toronto Jr. Canadiens.