Rangers unrewarded for hard work in weekend defeats

MILTON, ON - SEP 9: Harrison Toms #24 of the North York Rangers follows the play in the first period during the OJHL regular season game between the North York Rangers and Milton Icehawks on September 9, 2016 in Milton, Ontario. (Photo by Andy Corneau / OJHL Images)
February 1, 2017

9:53 AM EST

As weekends go, this past one was a bit of a punch to the gut.

Following a very bright Winter Showcase in Trenton during the week, the Rangers fell on both Saturday and Sunday to the Toronto Patriots and Wellington Dukes, respectively.

Joseph Mizzi and Nick Zanette both scored Saturday evening at Westwood Arena, but the North York third-period rally fell just short despite the fact the Rangers pelted Pats goaltender Cam Gray with 49 shots.

Colton Kalezic, Lee Lapid, Dante Spagnuolo, and Kiryll Ulanov replied for Toronto, who slipped one point ahead of the Rangers in the standings with the win.

Jett Alexander made 31 stops for North York, while Kyle Clarke, Ethan Wiseman, and Noah Robinson also added helpers.

Sunday’s loss to the Dukes proved to be a frustrating one on a couple of different levels.

League leading scorer Brayden Stortz opened the scoring 4:13 into the game when he found himself alone in the middle of the North York penalty kill, and slotted a perfectly aimed shot just inside the far post on Ranger goaltender Alexander.

Nick Campoli tied proceedings on a perfect finish from a sweet cross-ice feed from Mizzi just over a minute later, but the penalty kill let the Rangers down again when Mitchell Mendonca chipped a puck in from the blue paint at 5:01 of the second after he had collected a carom off the end boards from a Justin Bean point shot.

North York rookie defenceman-temporarily-turned forward Harrison Toms got the bench up just over a minute after Mendonca’s goal, however, smoothly receiving a picture perfect feed from Shawn Tessier, cruising in on a breakaway, and beating Dukes’ goaltender Connor Ryckman with a sweet finish over the glove hand. It was Toms’ first career OJHL goal.

Ture Linden gave the Rangers their only lead of the game at 12:34 of the second period when he chipped into an empty net from two feet out after Ross Krieger forced a turnover from Ryckman behind the Wellington net, but as had been the case most of the contest, the lead would not last long.

Exactly one minute and 20 seconds later, Bean received a cleanly won Rory Milne faceoff and ripped a perfectly aimed wrister past a screened Alexander; and North York would not lead again.

Austin Labelle gave the Dukes the winner on a weird one, as his long, knuckling wrister from centre ice fluttered off Alexander’s glove and in at 2:24 of the third.

The Rangers concluded the weekend in a season-low seventh place in the Southwest Conference, one point behind the Patriots for sixth, and three behind the Jr. Canadiens for fifth, with nine games left on the schedule.

North York will get some much-needed time off before returning to action Saturday night for a crucial battle with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens at Scotiabank Pond; puck drops at 8:00 pm.