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Game 5 – Plymouth and Kitchener Game Review

BY: Brandon Sudeyko

KITCHENER - In a do or die game you expect certain things to happen. You expect a fresh energy from the team that needs to win. The home crowd cheers louder. And since it is do or die… expect the unexpected. Friday night in Kitchener was just that.
            On the heels of  the media learning that Mike Morrison would start the game instead of Brandon Maxwell you knew tonight was different. The previous 4 games had the fans calling for Maxwell’s head and dying to get Morrison in net. And in an elimination game you may as well shake it up. When the starting lineup for the Rangers was announced, a tremendous uproar filled The Aud as the sellout crowd of 6,038 let it known that they want Mike Morrison.
            The game begins and before you can count to 10, just 9 seconds in, a puck is behind Mike Morrison. WOW! Not the start you wanted as a Kitchener Rangers team and definitely not what Steve Spott had in mind when he decided to start MikeMo. Fortunately for Kitchener they were able to get on the board very quickly after as 2 minutes and change later Michael Catenacci gets the home crowd on their feet to tie the game at one. With 17 minutes left in the first period there were two thoughts of how this game would go. Either this completely tilted the ice in the favour of the Rangers... or this is going to be a shootout. It was the former.
            The remainder of the first period the ice was heavily slanted in the favour of the Rangers as they poured on the pressure to the point that PLY goalie $cott Wedgewood may have gotten into his groove, which would be dangerous if that was the case. Tobias Reider and Michael Catenacci, just cut up the Whalers blue line, they got into and dominated the PLY zone with ease when they had the puck on their stick.  The period ends 1-1 with Kitchener posting 23 shots on Scott ‘Money’ Wedgewood to Plymouth’s 13 shots on MikeMo.
            The second period was like much like the first where early action will help control the play as Jason Akeson gets his first of the playoffs, and first goal since February 21st, to give the Rangers the lead and slant the ice in the Rangers favour. A seeing eye shot where he used PLY Nick Malaysa as a screen to beat Scott Wedgewood. After a pair of offsetting penalties, KIT Ryan Murphy has his helmet knocked off and has a brain cramp as he sort of tries to make a play in the Rangers Defensive zone and he gets called for Illegal Equipment, ie: playing without a helmet. Rules does state you have to get off the ice right away and Murphy thought a little too long before making a decision and this now opened the door for Plymouth who had a 4 on 3 for 1:46. All they needed was 24 seconds as Stefan Noesen with an almost Trick Shot off a rocket that just found the small hole on the short side to tie the game back up. After 40 minutes the game is tied at 2 and the Rangers have at least 20 minutes to score more than PLY or they will be packing up their gear for the summer. Personally I did not want to see that, not because I am cheering for KIT but because on Thursday night I was in Brampton and saw how hard it is for these kids to say goodbye after a long 4 year OHL Career. Maybe I am getting soft at my old age.
            The start of the third found Rangers Captain Gabriel Landeskog can be seen standing on the bench and giving his team a pep talk, apparently a recurring theme that I missed until now.  Much like the first period Plymouth struck early and 34 seconds in to the third Robbie Czarnik gives the Whalers the lead… the last one that the Whalers would have in this game. from that goal on the Rangers found a new gear, similar to the one in the first period. Whether it was the do or die mentality kicking in, or maybe the words from their Captain or maybe that none of them are Golfers they were able to dig deep and keep the puck in the Whalers zone for the entire period. And it was none other than Jason Akeson, the OA player who does not want his junior career to be over, who ties the game back up at 3 off a deflection from the point and nets it in the back of an empty cage over a sprawled Wedgewood. The goals are all dramatic and you can feel it in the Aud.  The 4th Rangers goal is most likely the death blow as Ryan Murphy slaps the puck in off the PLY End boards and it runs through the crease as Wedgewood does a 360 only to see Jerry D’Amigo throw it in the net and give the Rangers a one goal lead. Michael Catenacci scores his second of the game and it is all but over for the Whalers as they are down by 2 with 2 to play. What is a team to do? Well you pull the goalie and with Wedgewood on the bench and with the faceoff in the Rangers zone, after a scramble in front of the net Alex Aleardi is able to make it 5-4 and create some drama with 40 seconds left in the game. That is as close as the Whalers would get as Jason Akeson scores his third of the game, an empty netter to guarantee the Rangers will fight another day. Well Saturday at the least.
            All in all, it was a very exciting game which saw a lot of emotional ups and downs and the Rangers offense was predominant as they controlled the play more often than not. Kitchener was able to not only break through the Plymouth defenders as Catenacci and Reider did on numerous occasions but also pinned the Whalers deep in their zone to apply their pressure. With Plymouth’s size it was odd to see all 5 players on the ice below the faceoff dot and allow the Rangers puck moving defenceman all that time to set up and create havoc in front of Scott Wedgewood. On the other side of the coin, Plymouth is unbeaten at home in the playoffs and look to win game 6 on home ice and send the Rangers packing once and for all. Will the Whalers breakout and be able to match the Ranger intensity? Will Mike Morrison become the unquestionable star of the series by standing on his head tonight? Will this be the last time Akeson, Tipoff and Doornbosch dawn Ranger Blue? Questions to be answered later but as for game number 5. I stand up and applaud the Rangers on their performance when it is Do or Die.

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