The Boston Jr. Rangers defeated the Railers Jr. Hockey Club by a score of 5-2, winning the deciding Game 3 in their EHL semifinal series and punching their ticket to Championship Sunday.
Tay Melis had a goal and two assists while Kaleb Miller had a goal plus an assist. David Filak made 25 saves on 27 shots as the Jr. Rangers will play in their second championship game in three seasons.
Kaleb Miller scored 24 seconds into the game, as Bret Beale went behind the net and slipped a pass right to the front where Miller went upstairs on the tap-in. Miller now has two goals in as many postseason games since returning to the Rangers lineup.
Adam Nedelka doubled the lead with 12:12 left as he wrapped around the net to his backhand and banked the puck off Kulhanek’s skate and in the net, picking up his first goal of the playoffs.
Rangers head coach Rich DeCaprio spoke about his team jumping to an early lead and dictating the pace of the game in the first period.
“We knew it was going to be a war, any time when your backs are up against a wall and your season is on the line, especially in a game like this where it means going to the championship game, it’s going to have that extra intensity,” DeCaprio said. “I thought we came out to a fast start, and scoring on that first shift, it was nice to see the guys set the tone early.”
Melis, who had numerous scoring chances earlier in the series, made it 3-0 as he carried the puck down the right wing on a 2-on-1 and fired a shot upstairs for his first playoff goal. Spencer Sykes tacked on another as he pounced on a rebound and slid the puck under Railers’ goaltender Stefan Kulhanek.
Bret Beale picked up two assists in his return to the lineup. He took a hard hit in Game 1 and missed Game 2, but was able to return in the deciding Game 3. He spoke about his performance and helping out his team in a winner-take-all game.
“I felt a lot better today. It feels great to get those points, but that was an effort by the whole line there. It wasn’t just me, I had two other guys going to the net hard,” Beale said.
DeCaprio also praised Beale, who leads the team with four goals this postseason.
“He was awesome, he brings intensity every day, and it was a breath of fresh air when he said he could play today. He battled, he competed, and it’s a huge reason why we’re playing on Sunday,” he said.
The Railers struggled to get shots on goal early in the first period, and once they picked up momentum in the second and third periods they had some close calls. Connor McAleer had a breakaway early in the second, and Filak turned away a snapshot with the left pad. McAleer had another chance at the end of the period when he rang a shot square off the right post after a faceoff.
Jack Wineman finally broke through for the Railers with 17 seconds left in the middle period when he outwaited Filak as he cut to the right side and went top shelf on a wrister.
Tristan Boyer cut the deficit down to two goals with 8:18 left in regulation, as a puck popped up to the right circle where he hammered a shot into an open net for a power-play goal.
The Railers eventually pulled Kulhanek for the extra attacker, but Will Halecki iced the game with 1:10 left in regulation by firing a shot into the empty net to make it 5-2.
With Filak’s win, he improves to a 6-2 record in the postseason with a 1.37 goals against average and .955 save percentage. He talked about the win and shutting down the Railers’ surge late in the game.
“Coming into this game, all I could think about was stopping as many (pucks) as I could. If I could stop as many as I can, then my team will have more opportunities to score and take the lead,” he said. “They’re a good, strong hockey team but you’ve got to weather the storm in any way possible.”
Boston’s win sets the stage for Championship Sunday, as the New Hampshire Avalanche will take on the Jr. Rangers at Schneider Arena with a 3 p.m puck drop.