By Jamie Neugebauer
Matthew Whittaker scored two goals in just under two minutes in the first period as the North York Rangers earned their first pre-season win with a 3-1 triumph over the Orangeville Flyers Sunday afternoon.
Rangers’ net minders Gianluca Baggetta and Michael Botiz split the game and were both brilliant, combining for 22 often difficult saves.
North York bench boss Mark Joslin was content with his club’s effort post game.
“I thought there was a lot of good puck movement,” he said.
“A lot of young guys showed a lot of good solid grit, and guys were getting in shooting lanes and doing what we were asking of them on the defensive side of things. Overall, there were plenty of positives to take from today.”
Whittaker opened the scoring when he deflected home a Jeremy Szabo wristed point shot at the 3:13-mark of the opening frame, and then doubled his account at 5:10 by one timing a nice feed from Ryan Takamatsu in the high slot.
Max Novick’s screened wrist shot with under a minute remaining in the second period evaded Nicholas Latinovich in the Orangeville net to extend the lead to three, but Ethan Wiseman jammed one home to get one back for the visitors 33 seconds later.
The win improves North York’s exhibition record to one win and two losses.
By far the tightest battle for spots within the Rangers’ roster has been the defence corps, and the strong all-around performance of the unit on Sunday did little to provide Joslin and company with more clear answers moving forward.
“Yeah we’re definitely in a tough situation as far as the defence corps is concerned, but as a coaching staff is a good one to be in,” he said.
“We have nine defencemen on this club right now worthy of playing on this team. We are going to do what’s best for the team but we have some tough decisions to make. All of them have stepped up and done a very good job and made picking the final group difficult.”
The Rangers will now host the Raiders on Aug. 29 and then head to Georgetown on Sept. 3 to close out the pre-season.