By Jamie Neugebauer, Staff Writer
There comes in a time during the season of every successful team that a statement win is needed.
On Wednesday night at home against Burlington, the Rangers did just that.
Corey Kalk’s second straight three-assist contest, and a strong 36-save performance in net from Jacob Keogh, paced North York to a resounding 7-2 victory over the Cougars.
Rangers head coach John Dean was satisfied with the effort, but was not surprised by the result.
“I’m very happy,” he said after the game.
“We have a ton of respect for Burlington, we have pretty similar teams, but these are games that we’re trying to learn that we’re supposed to win – not something to massively celebrate afterwards. We executed, and I’m happy with the way we executed.”
The Cougars went ahead early when a deflected point-shot evaded Keogh, but the boys in blue came to play from the drop of the puck. Pat Piacentini’s slap-shot from the point was tipped in by Chris Aitcheson at 15:13 on the power play, and then a mere 16 seconds later Zach Fung unleashed a picture-perfect snap-shot from the high slot that went crossbar-down into the net.
North York would not relinquish the lead.
After the teams traded goals six minutes into the second period, Michael Giacometti banked in a shot from the point off a skate of a Burlington defender, again on the power play, at 9:38. It was his 10th of the season making him the first blue liner in the league to hit double-digits in goals.
North York put the game away in the third as the Cougars lost their composure and took a long string of penalties. Matthew Whittaker’s wicked wrist-shot found the net 3:38 in, followed by a five-on-three goal from John Carpino, and a bombed slapper by Giacometti for his second of the game and 11th of the season.
All told, the Rangers finished with four power play goals on the night, and they could have had more as the unit was superb from the get-go.
The key to the revival, according to Dean, was simply the work ethic exemplified by his second unit of Nicholas Geiser, Taylor Pryce, and Ryan Kinsella.
“I think the team finally realized how hard you have to work on the power play,” he said.
“I thought Geiser, Kinsella, and Pryce went out, set an example of puck retrieval and how hard you have to work for rebounds and pucks, and the team jumped on their back. Kalk, Carpino, [Liam] Kerins, Aitcheson, they followed suit right after them.”
With the victory, North York moves within four points of first in the South Division.
The Rangers and Cougars do not have to wait long before they renew hostilities as Dean and company will head to Burlington on Saturday night.