It was all about the New York Rangers defense in the 3-0 victory over Canada's Whitby Wildcats, to launch bracket play in the prestigious Quebec International PeeWee Hockey Tournament.
Neither team could get on the scoreboard over the first two periods, which were pretty evenly played. On the defensive end of the ice, however, it was pure domination by the Rangers. Whitby got off two shots in the first period and six in the second without touching net.
Whitby put eight shots on net in the third period but none were a challenge for goalie Gavin Moffatt except, perhaps, when a shot rocketed off his helmet midway through the third period. The Big Bang was no big deal for the goal-tender.
Virtually no breakdowns harmed the superlative, defensive effort, thanks to huge games by Dante DeBueris, Michael Fisher, Noah Jones, Jack Kugler, Eddie Romano and Leo Schwartz. Of course, some speedy back checks and fore checks provided strong support by the offensive lines.
Both teams had four penalties, and the Ranger power kill units did their job to support the shutout.
The Rangers finally got on the board with 2:13 gone in the third period when Jones passed across the zone, Eddie Romano took a slap shot and Ryan Friedman nailed the rebound goal for a 1-0 lead.
Whitby paid dearly for a penalty late in the game when Devin Kaplan recovered a rebound off a save by Moffatt and Kaplanwent coast to coast, finishing with his patented wrap around, launching a rocket into the net for an unassisted goal to make it 2-0 with three minutes to play.
Charlie Coutts sweetened the win when he took a pass at center ice from Kurt Gurkan and found the back of the net, wrapping up a 3-0 win.
For the game, Moffatt threw a big zero with 16 saves and the Rangers' shots resulted in 20 saves by Whitby, including 15 in the red-hot third period.
A couple other big plays stood out. Moffatt extinguished a threat late in the second period, in the scoreless game, when he snagged a shot on a breakaway. Whew, still a 0-0 game. Kugler had a huge stop when an errant pass found the stick of a Whitby player and his break-away was thwarted when Kugler dove to tap away the puck. Whew again, still a 0-0 score.
Coach Andrew Billinghurst expects his players to communicate on ice and they certainly passed the "talk test" with flying colors. In fact, you could heard the heads-up communicationsall the way up to the highest seat in the huge Centre VideothronArena.
Connor Welsh capitalized the victory, saying, "Even though we didn't play great in the first two periods, we never quit and we finished it off Rangers style."
The next game in bracket play comes Thursday, February 16, when the Rangers play Anaheim Junior Ducks. The California team knocked off Belle Tire, 4-1, to open bracket play. The balanced attack showed four different goal-scorers and nine different players racking up assists. The Ducks wasted no time taking control, netting a 2-0 lead with only 6:21 gone in the game.
As a follow-up to the 7-0 trouncing of Slovakia Stars in the Rangers' first Showcase game, which does not count in the bracket play, our team faces Quebec Typhon Sunday, February 12 and meets San Jose Junior Sharks Monday, February 13. The Showcase games provide additional opportunities for international play in this best of all the PeeWee world-wide tournaments.