Jr. Rangers retake first place

CARDINAL – A packed schedule and a trio of wins last weekend propelled the South Grenville Rangers back into first place in the National Capital Junior Hockey League standings.

The Rangers, who have been locked in a tight four-way race for first place all season, took on Gatineau Hull-Volant on the road January 20.

Forward Ethan Wooller book-ended a four-goal effort by the Rangers in the first and second periods. Wooller and fellow forward Zach White traded goals with Gatineau, with the teams log-jammed 2-2 at the end of the period.

Connor Van Luit sent the Rangers into the lead early in the second, but the Hull-Volant drew level with five minutes left in the period. Wooller’s one-timer (unassisted) was the game winner with a minute left in the second period. Rangers downed the Hull-Volant 4-3. Andrew Cristea was the winning goalie in the game.

South Grenville was slow to start Saturday night against the visiting Westport Rideaus. Zach White opened the Rangers’ scoring early in the second period. Westport’s Robert Onion levelled the game midway through the period. The teams were tied 1-1 entering the third period.

Westport took the lead in the third period 2-1 with 12 minutes left on the clock. The Rangers rallied, scoring four goals in five minutes to win the game 5-2. Scoring in that run were Wooller, Owen Webster, Van Luit, and Cole Jelly.

There was no rest for the Rangers as they were back home Sunday afternoon, hosting the Vankleek Hill Cougars. South Grenville traded goals with Vankleek Hill in the first period. Colin Stacey and Nick Campeau notched the scoreboard for the home side.
The teams were tied 2-2 in the second period. The Cougars scored three goals to take a 5-2 lead in the game.

Early in the third period, Cole Jelly’s goal (from Adam Chouinard and Van Luit) started the Rangers on another third period, four goal run. Vincent Busseau, White, and Justin Greene (short handed) scored making it a 6-5 game and another win. Wyatt Perras earned his eighth and ninth wins of the season, playing in the goal for the Rangers in the Rideaus and Cougars game.

“It was a gutsy effort all weekend from our group, but we know we need to be better,” said Head Coach and General Manager Lucas Stitt. “Saturday and Sunday we trailed in the third period before rallying four unanswered goals in each game. Our guys know that isn’t a game plan for longterm success.”

Stitt said that while a lot of work went into building the team at the start of the season, a few additions in the lead up to the trade/signing deadline added more depth.

“We pride ourselves on doing the extra work in the offseason, so we are ready to go and building towards our goals from Game One,” said Stitt.

The Rangers added former Brockville Brave Colin Stacey, Justin Green from the Carleton Place Canadians, and Owen Patterson from the Ridley College Tigers after Christmas.

“Stacey added firepower to our lineup,” Stitt explained. “Greene and Patterson improve our depth and penalty kill, but also are pieces for next season’s puzzle as well.”

The winning weekend moved South Grenville (21-4-2) back into first place in the NCJHL standings with 44 points. While tied in points with the North Dundas Rockets, the Rangers have two games in hand and a 0.815 win percentage – which is used to break ties. North Dundas’ win percentage is 0.759.

Locked in to their final 23 player roster for the run at the playoffs, Stitt said keeping energy levels up is key.

“We’re fortunate to have 23 players who can all contribute on any given night. Our quality depth allows us to balance ice time and ideally keep everyone fresh.”

South Grenville has two games on tap for next weekend. On January 28 the team hosts the fourth place Hull-Volant in Cardinal: puck drop is at 7:45 p.m. The Rangers travel to Clarence Creek Sunday to take on the third place Castors, who sit one point behind the Rangers in the standings.

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