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Rangers Score Often, Down Avalanche In Game One

By Anthiny Di Paolo, 03/26/24, 7:45PM EDT


Jr. Rangers' top line dominates in 5-2 win over Avalanche

Providence, RI -- The Boston Jr. Rangers defeated the New Hampshire Avalanche 5-2 in the opening game of the 2024 Frozen Finals, taking a 1-0 lead in their semifinal matchup.

The defending EHL champions scored four unanswered goals after falling behind early in the first period and were led by Tay Melis, who had two goals and two assists. Boston’s top line of Melis, Bret Beale and Kaleb Miller combined for four goals and 10 points in the Game 1 victory. 

Rangers head coach Rich DeCaprio spoke about the trio controlling the play.

“They were together last year when we were here, their chemistry is just off the charts. They always know where each other will be and each player brings their own attribute to the line; we got the goal-scorer, the passer, the slick guy, it’s a fun line to watch,” DeCaprio said. 

Just 34 seconds into the game, Boston goaltender Ayden Pierce rimmed the puck around the boards, as David Basin picked it off and snapped a shot from his knees that went in short side.

Melis tied it a few minutes later, as he side-stepped around an Avs defender and snapped a shot five-hole to make it 1-1. 

He got his second of the game at 4:56 of the second period to give the Rangers the lead. Kaleb Miller picked up a loose puck in the Avalanche zone and found Melis all alone in the high slot, as he wired a wrist shot low glove side for his fifth goal of the postseason.

Melis talked about playing on the EHL’s biggest stage and his chemistry with Beale and Miller.

“This is the building where everything takes over, it’s just incredible being here playing postseason hockey and every time I get the opportunity I try to cash in,” Melis said. “The chemistry is unreal, it’s something we work on both on and off the ice, and it’s just the little stuff; communicating before every practice and game, maybe do some extra film sessions and talk with the coaches.”

Boston turned it on in the third period, scoring three more goals including two in a span of 37 seconds. 

Mathieu Fournier made it 3-1 at 1:55 of the third period when Jake Russell won a faceoff back to Fournier, as he ripped a shot over the glove of Sam Boos. Soon after Fournier’s goal, the Rangers went back on the power play as Tay Melis wired a pass from the corner all the way across to Bret Beale, where he ripped home a one-timer to make it 4-1. 

Conor Kelly got one back for the Avalanche to make it 4-2. Mike Magyar’s shot from the point was knocked down in front, and Kelly slammed it home from the top of the crease.

Boston put the game away with another power-play goal, but it came in a wild sequence.

Pierce turned the puck over behind his own net to Kyle Gonzalez, and his stuff-in attempt was stopped by Rangers’ defenseman Andrew Haugh right in the crease. As the Rangers went the other way, Kaleb Miller scored on a wrister from the top of the left circle to make it 5-2.

The Jr. Rangers put up a strong defensive effort from both the forwards and defenseman by blocking shots in front of Boos. According to DeCaprio, it was something the team practiced during their playoff matchups against the East Coast Wizards and Express Hockey Club.

“It’s one of the things we’ve been practicing, a lot of details in the defensive zone, staying inside the dots, not getting above the puck and just being willing to sacrifice your body and eat pucks. It’s going to hurt, winning doesn’t tickle, and you need to embrace the pain a little bit to get what you want out of it,” DeCaprio said.

Pierce stopped everything else that did get through Boston’s defense. His biggest stops came in the second period as Avalanche defenseman Robert Martiniello took a shot from the left side; Pierce made a pad save and stopped a few rebound chances from Ryan Pappalardo and Conor Kelly at point-blank range. 

The Avs had another chance as Kyle Gonzalez made a beautiful cross-ice feed to Kodai Mizuno, and his shot was knocked away by Pierce’s mask.

Boston now has a chance to complete the sweep over the Avalanche and return to the championship game for the second straight year. Game 2 will take place on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

Anthony Di Paolo

Anthony Di Paolo covers the EHL for HNIB and can be followed on Twitter @DiPaolo_016

Anthony Di Paolo has been working in various levels of hockey over the last five years, ranging from juniors to the pros. Di Paolo spent four seasons as the Communications Director and play-by-play announcer for the New Jersey Titans of the North American Hockey League (2016-2020), and is entering his fifth season in a similar role with the New Jersey 87’s of the Eastern Hockey League. Graduating from Seton Hall University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, the New Jersey native covered Division I athletics for his school’s radio station, WSOU, and spent two years writing for the Fischler Report, a newsletter run by U.S. Hockey Hall-of-Fame inductee Stan Fischler. In addition to writing features and player spotlights throughout the season, Anthony is a fixture on the weekly #EShow podcast.