By Jamie Neugebauer
Gabriel Valenzuela scored twice and Matthew Whittaker added three assists as the North York Rangers bounced back from a tough loss on Friday with a 4-2 victory over the Hamilton Red Wings Sunday afternoon.
Michael Morgan scored his first goal as a Ranger while Gianluca Baggetta made 25 saves for his second win over the season.
North York bench boss Mark Joslin was impressed with his club’s character in finding a way to win after Friday’s 9-2 defeat at Trenton.
“I am glad with the way the guys responded,” he said.
“They battled hard after getting beat pretty bad Friday night. I thought we showed some character and got off to a good start. I don’t like losing the lead and relaxing a bit, but there are some definite positives with the way we fought back after a tough one Friday.”
Valenzuela got his first goal of the contest 3:27 into the opening period when he deked past a Hamilton defender, and then finished over the goaltender’s shoulder with his backhand.
Ryan Takamatsu doubled the lead at the 14:34 mark by converting a breakaway on the power play after a sweet feed from Will Reilly.
Valenzuela scored again when he one-timed a perfect centring pass from Whittaker 11:01 into the second period, and then Morgan whipped home a well-placed wrist shot over three minutes later to put North York up four.
Joslin was once again more than impressed with Valenzuela.
“He is just continuing to prove his leadership,” Joslin said.
“He’s just going to get better; there have been some schools talking to us and I hope that he gets an opportunity at the next level because he is certainly worthy.”
The Red Wings refused to give up, scoring twice through Jonathan Prasnjak and Laine McKay, but it was not enough as the Rangers held on for a hard-fought win.
Baggetta, who struggled in recent losses to Whitby as well as on Friday, was rock solid.
“He struggled a bit and had some bad bounces on Friday,” Joslin said.
“We decided to go back with him tonight and I think he responded really well. He made three or four saves that had perfect timing and really helped that team get that win.”
The Rangers are back in action next Saturday evening when they take on the Toronto Patriots. Puck drops at 7:45 p.m.