It has taken nine years, but the Rangers finally did it: they tied a game.
Jeremy Szabo scored with 17 seconds remaining in the third period to even the contest at three as North York rallied from down two in the third period to tie the Toronto Jr. Canadiens on Sunday afternoon.
The last time that happened for North York in a regular season game was Dec. 17, 2006 vs. the Ajax Attack.
Afterward, Rangers’ head coach Brent Hughes was encouraged by his club’s ability to battle back after a poor first period.
“I loved the way our guys responded,” said Hughes.
“I absolutely hated our first period; we did not come out ready. We were not moving our feet, and the fact that we took four penalties in the first period proves that. We are a team that does not tolerate being outworked, and we were outworked in the first period. I like the way we responded and we showed some good character. We know what works for us and we have to stick to that for 60 minutes.”
Veteran Canadiens’ defender Andrew Mullen opened the scoring when his well-aimed snap shot from the point on the power play beat North York goaltender Jeremie Lintner low to the blocker side at 5:54 of the first period.
Justin Maiolino continued his hot play against the Rangers over the last couple of years by one timing an Andrew Pucci centring pass 10:53 into the second to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Michael Morgan showed some of his ability in front of goal exactly three minutes later while shorthanded, poking the puck past Maiolino, and then breaking in alone and finishing past Toronto’s Matthew Camilleri.
Nevertheless, one-time North York training camp invitee George Novachis fired in a rebound a mere 30 seconds later to regain the two-goal advantage, and the mountain that the Rangers had to climb to rally was set at 3-1 heading into the third.
“I can’t say exactly what I said to the guys,” said Hughes, “but they got the point.”
“We are a team that cannot play as individuals. We have to play as a team, and when you compete hard good things happen for you. The way the schedule has been put together, I was not happy with having so many days off, and that is going to change. We mentally need to be more prepared individually, so that way we have a better start, especially in our home rink.”
Ryan Hunt got the comeback train going 2:12 into the third period when his soft wrist shot careened off a leg in front of Camilleri and handcuffed the 20-year-old rookie goaltender.
Then, with Lintner pulled, Szabo blasted a loose puck that had trickled out to him in the high slot, and sent the contest into overtime.
“That is why Jeremy is our captain,” said Hughes.
“He leads by example and scoring a big goal like that, that is what you expect from those guys. He is a 20 year old veteran and he is the type of guy you lean on in those situations, so I am happy it was him.”
Overtime solved nothing, although both Keegan Blasby and Nick Zanette hit posts for North York, and Lintner was forced into a number of great saves at the other end to deny the Jr. Canadiens the extra point.