TEWKSBURY, MA -- The first week of the Eastern Hockey League playoffs is finished, and both Rangers teams are still alive. The Premier team knocked off the Vermont Lumberjacks and advanced to the Quarterfinals. The 19U Elite team battled their way through the North Conference Round Robin, earning themselves a ticket to the Elite Finals.
"Each team dealt with their own set of adversity this past weekend," said Rangers Premier head coach Rich DeCaprio. "The Premier team managed to get by a very tough Lumberjacks squad, while the Elite team had their backs against the wall and managed to just keep fighting."
The Rangers series with the Lumberjacks brought Vermont to town for all three games. Game 1 was by far the best of the three, as the teams were tied up 2-2 at the end of regulation, and also at the end of the 1st overtime. As the 5th period of hockey began, it took Mike McPherson just over four minutes to end the game in Tewksbury. Nolan Egbert made 53 saves in net for the Rangers.
The two teams returned to Breakaway Ice Center the next day, and Vermont controlled the game from start to finish. The Lumberjacks jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back on their way to a 5-1 win. Ryan Tierney had the lone for the Rangers.
With the win on Sunday, the Lumberjacks forced a series-deciding Game 3 on Monday. The score was similar to the day before, but it was the Rangers pulling away in this one. Ten different players tallied points for the Rangers, and Egbert made 51 saves between the pipes in a 6-1 victory.
Egbert made 149 total saves in the three games, earning himself the TSR Top Performer honors for the series (graphic below).
After knocking off the Boston Bandits on Wednesday, the Rangers set out for the North Conference Round Robin.
The Rangers first game of the weekend kicked off the Round Robin at 10:00am on Saturday against the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs. Unfortunately, the Rangers were trailing 3-1 when there was a zamboni malfunction and a small hole appeared in the ice. The game was delayed and moved to Monday at 8:00am.
The next day brought the Rangers back to the Ice Den Arena for a pair of games. The Rangers lost to the Vermont Lumberjacks 4-3, and then beat the New England Wolves 8-2. Sunday's results turned Monday's game into the North Conference Championship. If the Monarchs won the game or lost in overtime/shootout, they were heading to the Finals. If the Rangers won the game in regulation, they were heading to the Finals.
When the game resumed, each team came out flying in the 2nd period. The Rangers got the only goal with just under a minute to go in the frame. The momentum from that goal proved to be huge as the Rangers tied the score 9:16 into the 3rd period, and then took the lead with 1:18 left on the clock. Zach Norby scored two big goals in the comeback, and Ben Parker stopped all 17 shots he faced after the game resumed.
Norby led the way on offense as the Rangers pulled off an incredible comeback, earning themselves a spot in the Elite Finals. Norby earned himself the TSR Top Performer honors for the Round Robin (graphic below).