Gabriel Valenzuela scored a career-high four goals and Zach Fung added his first of the year as the North York Rangers cruised past the Buffalo Jr. Sabres 7-4 on Sunday afternoon.
Andrew Cipollone made 23 stops for his second career OJHL victory as the Rangers moved into a three-way tie for first place in the South Division.
Despite the team’s recent success, the story of the day was most certainly the 19-year-old Valenzuela.
“You know, (his game today) was unbelievable,” said North York head coach Mark Joslin.
“I even watched the other teams bench a couple of times and they even shook their head at some of the things he did today. It’s pretty incredible the roll he’s on right now for sure.”
Valenzuela, who has failed to record a point only once out of 23 contests so far this season, is on a 15-game point-scoring streak, and pulled even with Georgetown’s Steve Hladin for the league lead in points at 44.
Michael Morgan’s one-timer on the power play at 15:48 of the third period, and Jake Harris’ snapshot from the slot with three minutes remaining in regulation tacked on to Valenzuela’s explosive evening.
Tim Nicksic, Josh Gabriel, Chris Moses, and Christopher Berger all replied for Buffalo.
“I said to the guys, we’ve won eight of the last nine,” Joslin said, “but I still look at the negatives at times.
“We gave up four goals against a team that we should not be giving up that much to, with all due respect, and we had 15 defensive-zone giveaways and that is a concern. When we’re playing against more veteran, and experienced teams we might run into some trouble if we don’t clean that up.”
Jeremy Szabo, Fung, and Matthew Whittaker also all added multi-point outings; and the Rangers have not been defeated at the Herb Carnegie Centennial Arena since Oct. 12, a span of five games.
They will return to action Friday night when they travel to Milton to take on the Icehawks. North York will be without Valenzuela, Whittaker and Will Reilly for that contest, as they will all be busy at the Central Canada Cup All-Star tournament. — Jamie Neugebauer