They say that hockey is not for the faint of heart, and if you ever needed a game to prove that, tonight’s contest between the New York Pee Wee Rangers and Gatineau Olympiques would be the one. Simply put, it was a thriller and every bit as demanding as the Rangers coaching staff had told the team to expect. The Olympiques, a highly regarded team from just outside the Canadian capital of Ottawa, had a reputation as fast and relentless, and they were all that.
For each team, a win would mean the right to continue in the tournament. A loss would mean a ticket home.
The Arpidrome in the Quebec City suburb of Charlesbourg seats about a thousand, and it was filled with family, friends, and fans of both teams. Once again, cheers of “Let’s Go Rangers!” echoed across the arena. However, those cheers were momentarily stilled when Gatineau took a 1-0 lead just three minutes in to the first period. But less than two minutes later Pee Wee Rangers captain Christian Jiminez stormed up the ice, cut in on goal, and banged home his own rebound to tie the game at one. Two minutes later the captain made a beautiful cross ice pass, Jack Gorton swept it over to David Chen, and, all of a sudden, it’s 2-1 Pee Wee Rangers. Then, less than two minutes after that, another score – Zack Tonelli to Anthony Cipollone in the slot; Cipollone controlled the puck and fired on net. The Gatineau goalie makes the save but Hunter Rossi is all over the rebound, and just like that it’s 3-1 New York just 8:30 into the game.
The Olympiques scored early in the second period to make the score 3-2. Gatineau soon had a chance to add more on a powerplay, but Hunter Rossi displayed the kind of effort the Pee Wee Rangers were making this night when he sprawled in front of a slapshot from the point to help kill the penalty. The second period finished with the score 3-2 in favor of the Pee Wee Rangers.
Just four minutes into the third period, the Rangers extended their lead when Aidan Cobb took a beautiful pass in the neutral zone from defenseman Bayard Hall, skated right up the middle with two defenders draped all over him, and put a beautiful move on the Olympiques goaltender to score. 4-2 Pee Wee Rangers.
A penalty put Gatineau on a powerplay, and they cashed in at the midway point of the third period to cut the Rangers lead to one. Less than two minutes later, another Gatineau goal, and just like that it’s 4-4, and the Olympiques are charging.
At that point, but co-coaches Paul Messier and Jeff Devenney wouldn’t let the boys get down, and, to be sure, the boys showed the kind of character and poise that coaches dream of.
With two minutes remaining, the Olympiques won a draw in their own end, but there was confusion between the Gatineau goalie and defenseman. New York winger Hunter Rossi stepped right in, jumped on the puck, and made no mistake. 5-4 New York Pee Wee Rangers.
One minute and fifty-one seconds were remaining in the game when Hunter Rossi scored. The final 111 seconds seemed to been the longest almost 2 minutes in Pee Wee Rangers history as the Olympiques pulled their goaltender and pulled out all the stops. There were three gut-wrenching face-offs in the New York zone, but each one was answered with firm defense and outstanding goaltending from Gus Bylin. Finally, it really was game over.
The Pee Wee Rangers skated off the ice 5-4 winners in the first elimination game. Hunter Rossi deservedly was awarded the Broadway hat. But there was little time to rest. Friday brings a game against the Bay State Breakers at 10:00 am.