By Jamie Neugebauer
Matthew Whittaker paced the Rangers with three points, but it was not enough as the North York rally fell short for a second game in a row in a 6-4 loss to the Pickering Panthers on Sunday.
The Rangers fell behind 5-1 at the 8-minute mark of the second period, and worked their way back with three straight goals. Yet, just as on Saturday at Toronto, it was not to be.
“Obviously, when you can come back and you don’t quit, that’s good news,” said North York head coach Mark Joslin afterward, “but I am not happy at all with the way we have been starting games.
“The intensity level, the attention to detail, and our defensive awareness have not been good enough, and we’re not going to win a lot of hockey games when we give up five goals. That cannot be our makeup.”
Lucas Condotta and Mark Tenuta converted on first period Ranger turnovers to put the visitors ahead by the 16:56 mark of the opening frame, but Michael Morgan continued to be productive by jamming home a power play goal under a minute later to cut the lead in half.
Former North York forward BJ Salerno stole back the momentum by flipping a puck home from close range 1:19 into the second, and then Riley Devine and Chris Sekelyk took advantage of odd-man rush opportunities to give the Panthers a 5-1 lead.
Ted Hunt gave the Rangers a glimmer of hope at 15:57 of the middle period by one-timing home a pretty tic-tac-toe power play move with Whittaker and Jeremy Szabo. Then when Gabriel Valenzuela scored after being left alone in front of the net 2:51 in the third, it appeared as though North York had more than just a glimmer.
The Rangers pressed for much of the third and Whittaker finally converted at 16:51 by tapping in a nice feed from Szabo, but the hosts could not find a way all the way back.
Devine got his second into an empty net.
A big key to North York’s near-rally was the play of goaltender Gianluca Baggetta, who replaced Andrew Cipollone after the fifth goal.
“He rebounded and gave us a chance to get back into the game,” said Joslin, “which is a great positive. But again, if we’re not all on the same page then it’s going to be troublesome for quite some time.”
The Rangers will look to get back into the win column at the Governor’s Showcase event next Friday afternoon in Oakville, where they will take on the Toronto Patriots. Puck drops at the Sixteen Mile Sports Complex at 1 p.m.