ERIE, PA. —
Say a prayer for Adam Courchaine.
The Erie Otters goalie must find a way to vex Kitchener Rangers sniper Jeremy Morin.
Morin, who scored his 40th and 41st goals of the Ontario Hockey League season in Sunday’s 6-4 Rangers win before 3,758 at Tullio Arena, has bedeviled the Otters.
“He’s got it,” said Courchaine after of Morin’s red-light touch as a Faith and Family Day preacher sermonized to the Erie congregation from centre ice after the game.
“He’s one of those guys who can put the puck where he wants to.”
That place would be in the Otters net.
The wing man they call Jet has 12 goals against the Otters.
Seven have come at Tullio Arena.
And the Rangers have won all seven meetings with the Sherry Bassin-managed Otters this season. Now, get out your beads and recite the Hail, Sherry seven times as penance.
If the Western Conference playoffs began today, the sixth-seeded Otters would face the No. 3 Rangers in the first round.
May as well read the Otters their last rites?
Or are the Otters, who visit the Aud one last time in the regular season on Friday, capable of topping a team they’ve been outscored 39-15 by in seven meetings?
“We can’t psych ourselves out before the game,” Otters captain Zack Torquato said.
“We can play with them. We just have to stay out of the box and be better on specialty teams because that’s where we’ve been losing against them all year.”
The Rangers had two power-play goals Sunday. Erie had none.
Jeff Skinner also scored twice for Kitchener, giving him 47 as he tries to become the first Ranger in 23 years to tread on hallowed 50-goal ground.
In fact, Morin set Skinner up with a heavenly pass on his second goal.
Morin closed the goals gap between them, then helped Skinner restore his lead.
“I don’t care,” Morin said. “I hope he gets to 50 sooner.”
But what about facing the Otters in the playoffs?
The Otters haven’t played with aggression against the Rangers since Mike Liambas hit Ben Fanelli into the Aud glass that fateful Devil’s Night. Fanelli is continuing his recovery from a cracked skull. Liambas was tossed from the league for good.
The Rangers simply own coach Robbie Ftorek’s apostles, right?
“They’re all close games,” Morin offered.
Actually, it’s been 4-1, 4-0, 7-2, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.
C’mon, Rangers. You can’t wait to face these Otters in two weeks after your final six games, including Thursday’s stop in London, are done.
“There is, I think, a good feel when we play against Erie,” Rangers coach Steve Spott said.
“I think the guys enjoy playing in this building. Their fans are on top of you. It’s definitely a building where it’s lively. I think our guys feed off that emotion.”
Emotion is what the Otters hope to exhibit on Friday.
“That needs to happen when we go back to Kitchener,” Courchaine said.
“We need to be able to establish that kind of heat and intensity between us before the playoffs start.”
Otters defender Paul Cianfrini concedes the Rangers have skill.
“But I think we’ve beaten better teams,” he added.
But what about stopping Morin?
“I’m working on it,” Courchaine said.
Rangers 6 at Otters 4
1. Kitchener, Moore 10 (Akeson, Landeskog) 3:48
2. Erie, Cazzola 34 (Torquato, Cianfrini) 4:49
3. Kitchener, Cimadamore 13 (Tipoff, Mascioli) 19:32
Penalties — Torquato, Erie (hooking) 6:39; Randell, Kit (holding) 8:53;
4. Kitchener, Skinner 46 (unassisted) :16
5. Erie, Luciani 33 (unassisted) 1:30
6. Kitchener, Morin 40 (Skinner, MacKinnon) 9:22 (2pp)
7. Erie, Broll 8 (Gaulton, Appio) 11:35
Penalties — Mascioli, Kit, Appio, Erie (fighting) 1:35; Kelly, Kit (interference) 5:08; Tipoff, Kit (slashing) 7:02; Yogan, Erie (roughing) 7:28; Cianfrini, Erie (interference) 8:47; Szydlowski, Erie (fighting), Randell, Kit (fighting, 10-minute misconduct) 12:08; Shields, Erie (holding) 17:31; Kelly, Kit (slashing) 19:43
8. Kitchener, Morin 41 (Catenacci) 2:48
9. Erie, McKegg 36 (Torquato, Cazzola) 7:36
10. Kitchener, Skinner 47 (Morin, Murphy) 17:37 (pp)
Penalties — Austin, Erie (holding) 3:18; Landeskog, Kit (unsportsmanlike conduct) 6:48; Cazzola, Erie (hooking) 16:33; Gaulton, Erie (delay of game) 19:20
Shots on goal:
Kit 10-14-7 31
Erie 8-12-7 27
Goaltenders: Brandon Maxwell, Kit. Adam Courchaine, Erie.
Power plays: Kit (2-7), Erie (0-4)
Referees: Sean McQuigge, Scott Ferguson
Linesmen: Matt Traub, Ryan Park