This is something no one saw coming when the playoff matchups were cemented. Despite losing 15 players from last year’s roster and finishing under .500 the North York Rangers find themselves in a commanding position in the first round of the OJHL Buckland Cup. They won two games in under 24 hours against the Toronto Jr. Canadiens to jump out to a 3-0 series lead.
It started on Saturday night at Scotiabank Pond. Toronto scored two goals in under 30 seconds from CJ Clarke and Ryan Pitoscia to head into the first intermission up 2-0. Cole O’Hara got the Rangers on the board only 46 seconds into the second frame to cut the deficit to one. But JRC responded quickly off the stick of Ryan Tverberg at 5:09 to go up 3-1.
During the regular season, the Rangers were near the bottom of the league offensively averaging just over three goals a game. Tonight was a completely different story for North York. Myles Perry got things going recording two goals to tie the game at 14:22. The road team took their first lead on the night just under 50 seconds later thanks to Adam Panacci. The Rangers went into the third period leading 4-3.
The Rangers kept control of the game until they went on the powerplay. Matthew Di Cesare got a step on Rangers Victor Polowy and evened up the score at 10:34. Neither team was able to go ahead for the rest of the frame, which meant overtime was needed for the second straight game.
The Jr. Canadiens found themselves in a position to even up the series after Perry took a tripping penalty only 50 seconds into overtime. Unfortunately, similar to the Rangers in the third, the power play came at a cost. Tyler Flack picked off a pass on the half boards, blew by everyone to create a breakaway and scored the shorthanded game-winner. Goalie James Gray made 23 saves in the victory.
The next day on Sunday afternoon, the Rangers struck first in front of their home crowd. Cole Tucker’s shot was tipped in by Jonas Leas to open up the scoring at 15:59 into the opening period. Toronto made sure they did not go into the intermission trailing. Tverberg tipped in a pass from Mathew Rehding with on 39 seconds left in the first to make the score 1-1.
The Rangers retook the lead just before the midway point of the second. Flack struck shorthanded once again, he went top corner on Canadiens’ goalie Christian Mattiace to push the lead to 2-1 at 8:13. For the second straight period though, Toronto evened up the game late. Clarke stuffed in a rebound at 18:31 to go into the third intermission tied at 2-2.
The depth players on the Rangers came up massive in the third. Joseph Lionti banked in Austin Brimmer’s rebound to hand North York the 3-2 advantage. Lionti only recorded one goal the entire season and only needed three playoff games to find the back of the net. Toronto pushed hard for the equalizers, but goalie Eli Shiller, who was making his first career playoff start, made 14 saves in the third. Daniel Petreccia potted in the empty netter to put the game out of reach.
The Rangers will have a chance to sweep JRC on Wednesday, March 4th at the Herbert H. Carnegie Centre. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:00pm.