By Jamie Neugebauer
It was far from pretty but the North York Rangers will take it after they rallied to down the Burlington Cougars 6-3 on Sunday afternoon.
Kyle Thacker notched his first two goals a Ranger while Liam Kerins had the seventh multi-goal game of the season with two in the third period.
Afterward, North York bench boss John Dean was content.
“Two points is two points,” he said, “but we definitely have work to do. Our first couple minutes were not good again and against teams a bit higher in the standings, with all due respect to Burlington, we cannot afford to keep getting off to starts like that. But the boys figured it out today, so we’ll move on and take the win.”
Ryan Wilkinson opened the scoring for Burlington at 2:46 when he banged in a one-timer on a two-on-one on the power play before Paolo DeSousa doubled the lead with a well-aimed shot just over four minutes later.
Thacker got one back for North York, with about five-and-a-half minutes remaining in the first, when his point shot bounced in off a Cougars’ defender.
Adam Valadao snapped a four-game pointless streak by jamming in a rebound on the power play at 3:14 of the second period to tie the game, but Brad Johnson’s shorthanded wrist shot fooled Gianluca Baggetta to give Burlington back the lead a mere 25 seconds into the third.
Kerins started a run of four markers for North York by converting a Gabriel Valenzuela centring pass at 4:18, and then collecting a bounce off the back boards just under four minutes later and pounding it home for his second in a row.
Thacker got his second at 10:48 when his point shot evaded a screened Josh Morton in the Burlington net, and then Brandon Gaudette completed the scoring at 19:04 into an empty net.
The Rangers now have the most power-play goals scored in the OJHL with 65 and they sit second in power-play proficiency and first in penalty-kill proficiency.
“Special teams have been huge for this team’s turnaround,” Dean said.
“The guys have committed to puck retrieval and to the systems, for the most part, and with the skill we have its not surprising we are putting the puck in the net when we’re up a man or two.”
North York continues to hold on to third place in the Southwest Conference with four games remaining in the regular season. Every team chasing the Rangers has at least one game in hand on them.
The Rangers are next in action on Saturday night when they take on the Toronto Jr. Canadiens at Chesswood Arena, puck drops at 7:30 p.m.