VANKLEEK HILL – A no-quit attitude and several comebacks forced the NCJHL semi-final series between the South Grenville Rangers and the Vankleek Hill Cougars to six games, with the Rangers falling in overtime March 17th.
South Grenville trailed in the series 1-0 when the team launched a second period comeback from a 4-1 deficit to tie their March 12th game in Cardinal.
Jordan Dodge scored a natural hat-trick, plus a fourth goal which tied the game 5-5 three minutes into the third period.
Nearly seven minutes into overtime, Jared Fenlong scored the bookend power-play goal, giving the Rangers a 6-5 win and tying the series at one game apiece.
The series moved to Vankleek Hill the following night, where the Rangers were handed an 8-1 loss in a penalty-laden game. Dodge had the lone goal for the Rangers in the second period.
South Grenville returned the favour March 15th, tripling Vankleek Hill in their home barn 9-3. Brody Ranger, Carson Pickup, and Jack Finnerty put the Rangers up 3-1 after 20 minutes.
Ranger finished his hat trick while Pickup added one more goal in the second period, extending the team’s lead to 6-2. Brayden Forestell added two goals and Noah Edmonds one goal in the third period, to give the Rangers a 9-3 win.
Tying the series once again, the Rangers were hoping to take control of the series in March 16th in Cardinal.
Cole Edgely (power-play) and Cameron Dillon scored back-to-back goals 11 minutes into the game, to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. The Cougars cut that in half late in the first period, but still trailed the Rangers 2-1.
Early in the second frame, Dodge landed an insurance goal on another power-play, Rangers led 3-1. Vankleek Hill scored five minutes later. The Rangers led the Cougars 3-2 after 40 minutes. Dodge again gave the Rangers some breathing room, four minutes into the third period, but that did not last. The Cougars scored twice in five minutes, tying the game a 4-4.
The Cougars scored in the opening minute of overtime, winning 5-4 and taking a 3-2 stranglehold in the series.
Back to Vankleek Hill for game six, the Cougars took a 2-0 lead in the first period, and added another two goals in the second period.
Finnerty scored a power-play goal for the Rangers with seven seconds left in the period. The Rangers trailed the Cougars 4-1, heading into the third period. Tristan Loomis netted another power-play goal five minutes into the third, followed by Finnerty’s second of the night just 15 seconds later. South Grenville had cut Vankleek Hill’s lead to one goal. Seconds later, Justin Labrosse scored, what would be the game winning goal for the Cougars. Brody Ranger closed out the Rangers’ scoring as the team tried to tie the game, landing his shot with 1:13 left in the game. South Grenville ran out of time, losing the game 5-4, and the series four games to two.
“We’ve got a great group of young men who are full of character,” said general manager Lucas Stitt. “The games we lost wasn’t so much about how the other team played but the mistakes that we had made. When our team commits to playing our type of hockey and cleaning up those issues we get much better results.”
The Cougars advance to the NCJHL finals where they will face the Clarence Castors, who put out the North Dundas Rockets in their semi-final series four games to one.