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By Josh Brown, The Record - Playing without goalie John Gibson for much of the run to the post-season wasn’t easy.
The Kitchener Rangers netminder missed about two months down the stretch as he worked through a nagging hip/groin injury.
The club remained extra cautious during his 18-game absence to be sure that the Pittsburgh native would be ready to go when it counts most.
After all, Gibson — as Rangers’ general manager and head coach Steve Spott often repeated — had the capability of stealing a contest virtually on his own.
The approach paid dividends Sunday night at the Aud.
Gibson made 49 saves — including 23 in the first period — to lead the Rangers to a 2-0 win against the Guelph Storm. The victory gives Kitchener a comfortable 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven OHL western conference quarter-final series.
“We’ve seen this level from him before,” said Spott. “We knew that there were going to be times in the playoffs where we would need a performance like this. It was as good of a performance that I’ve seen in a long time.
“I know there are only three stars, but he was all three for me tonight.”
The Storm was shorthanded for the tilt after 28-goal man Brock McGinn was suspended for a pair of games for checking Kitchener centre Matia Marcantuoni in the head during Friday’s Game 1 victory.
But it didn’t slow down the visitors.
Guelph showed great urgency to even the series by outshooting and out-chancing the Rangers early on. But every time they pounced, Gibson was there with a glove, pad, stick or blocker.
“If not for John, we’re in bad shape,” said Spott. “They could have easily been up two, three or four goals.”
Guelph Storm 0 at Kitchener Rangers 2 - Status: Final
Sunday, March 24, 2013 - Kitchener Memorial Auditorium
Guelph 0 0 0 - 0
Kitchener 0 1 1 - 2
1st Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Pedan Gue (roughing), 9:43; Thomson Kit (roughing), 9:43; Horvat Gue (slashing), 19:22.
2nd Period-1, Kitchener, Puempel 2 (Bailey), 10:18. Penalties-Bailey Kit (holding), 8:03; Fanelli Kit (slashing), 11:00.
3rd Period-2, Kitchener, Ming 1 (Meighan, Alberga), 1:59. Penalties-Bertuzzi Gue (boarding), 4:08; Bertuzzi Gue (roughing, roughing), 18:08; Gibson Kit (roughing), 18:08; Mitchell Gue (high sticking), 18:40; McNaughton Gue (slashing, misc-usc), 19:00; Pedan Gue (high sticking), 19:00; Puempel Kit (slashing), 19:00; Horvat Gue (roughing), 19:25.
Shots on Goal-Guelph 23-13-13-49. Kitchener 11-16-13-40.
Power Play Opportunities-Guelph 0 / 2; Kitchener 0 / 5.
Goalies-Guelph, Sparks 0-2-0-0 (38 shots-36 saves); Nishi 0-0-0-0 (2 shots-2 saves). Kitchener, Gibson 2-0-0-0 (49 shots-49 saves).
Referees-Bob Langdon (7), Sean Reid (26).
Linesmen-Adam Harris (49), Mike Harrington (90).