Let's see your hands….prior to the start of the tourney, how many thought the New York Rangers would go into their fifth game before allowing a single goal? It was unanimous, hands down, for that amazing feat, beyond any expectations for our team in the Quebec International PeeWee Hockey Tournament.
The team speed started to melt the ice - really! - Tuesday, February 14 with the red-hot, up-tempo passing game leading to a 5-1 win over Syracuse Stars in a Showcase game. Now the 5-0 record speeds into bracket play Thursday, February 16 at 8 a.m. against Anaheim Junior Ducks.
The Rangers opened the all-important bracket play last week with a 4-0 win over Whitby Wildcats, and Anaheim was grabbing a 4-1 win over Belle Tire. Those two face off for the right of one team to move on at Quebec, in a bracket game Friday, February 17.
In the Syracuse game, the Rangers looked fresh and fast, and started out with three bang-bang-bang close-range shots on goal, but no score. The blue and red got on the scoreboard mid-way through the first period when Will Reardon sent a hard slap shot off the goalie's pad, followed with a strong finish by Ryan Friedman to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
The streak of four shutouts ended when Syracuse found net with 4:48 left in the first period. The Rangers immediately launched an offensive pounding on 'Cuse with four shots on net in just a few seconds, only to come away empty handed. Then Eddie Romano made one of the top defensive plays of the game whenhe stopped a break-away which could very well have been the first time that the Rangers were behind in the tournament. NY outshot its foe, 14-3, in the period. The first period ended when Syracuse was called for a penalty on Reardon with 20 seconds left in the first period.
It didn't take long in the second period to grab a 2-1 lead with the power play, closed out by Beanie Richter's goal. Devin Kaplan entered the zone, took the puck straight to the net where a nice goalie stop popped out just enough for Richter to stuff it home.
The dizzy pace, as seen through the Syracuse goalie's mask, continued for the NY Rangers team with several flurries of shots in close quarters, again and again. The score mounted to 3-1 midway through the second period when Connor Welsh found a big target, Kaplan, who took the pass in the slot and buried it top shelf.
The Rangers made it look easy the rest of the way. There were a couple big defensive stops when the huge Syracuse defender had two one-on-ones down ice but was halted without a goal both times.
The score rose to 4-1 in the third when Welsh and Richter were off and skating on a break-away, with Welsh passing and Richter scoring with a wrist shot from 15 feet into the top corner. In closing out the scoring, defender Romano offended Syracuse when he skated coast to coast, and deeked the goalie with a sweet backhander into the net. Add up that score to 5-1. In addition to Romano's big plays, defensemen Leo Schwartz, Noah Jones and Jack Kugler continued their strong play as they limited the Stars' efforts to enter the Rangers zone. Rangers'defenders Dante DeBueriis and Michael Fisher controlled the blue line, peppering the zone with jet-like slap shots and precision passing. Goalie Michael Corrado faced a one-on-one late in the game, but he slid across to make a glove save on a nice penalty kill effort. The Rangers peppered the Syracuse goalie with 33 shots on net, and Corrado safely put away 12 of 13 shots. Syracuse complimented their fellow New Yorkers after the game, saying that they had not seen a team move the puck like the Rangers, with such lightning speed and precision, with great ice vision. Faster, sharper yet is the plan for the Anaheim meeting Thursday. Kugler said, "The message in the locker room was to build momentum for Thursday, and I believe our team was able to execute on that mission." In the Anaheim win over Belle Tire, the balanced Junior Ducks had four different players score goals, and seven different players with assists.