BY: Bruce Berlet

Ken Gernander has always been demanding, whether as a player or now as coach of the Connecticut Whale.

Gernander didn’t change Sunday night in the New York Rangers’ second game in the prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich.

After the first period, Gernander requested more diligence defensively in a televised intermission talk after the Rangers had been outshot 15-7 in the first 17 minutes.

Then after the second period, Gernander asked his young team for better skating and more pressure on Dallas Stars goalie Jack Campbell, saying, “Twenty shots on goal in two periods just isn’t good enough, boys.”

On the first count, the Rangers limited a Stars team that scored eight goals in an opening win to only four shots in 14 minutes while killing off two power plays.

On the second front, the Rangers responded with the first 14 shots of the third period and got goals from Jason Wilson, Andrew Yogan and Ryan Bourque in a little more than nine minutes as they broke open a tight game and rolled to a 6-2 victory.

It was reminiscent of the Rangers’ 7-2 victory over the Stars in the fifth-place game last year, with Bourque’s second goal Sunday night giving him a team record eight in three tournament appearances. He also scored in a 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues in the Rangers’ opener Saturday night. The Rangers outshot the Stars 19-3 in the third period for a 39-28 advantage in the game.

Nearly lost in the Rangers’ second consecutive offensive outburst was the work of goalie Scott Stajcer, who is trying to make a strong impression in the tournament and ensuing training camp since the Rangers are leaning toward having him play as an over-aged junior this season after missing most of 2010-11 because of hip surgery in November. Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron are ticketed for the Rangers, while Stajcer, fellow prospect Jason Missiaen and veterans Chad Johnson and Cam Talbot will be vying for two spots with the Whale and one with Greenville of the ECHL.

Stajcer, who also is playing in his third prospects tournament, took a major step in his bid as he enabled the Rangers to escape the first period with a 2-1 lead while making 15 of his 26 saves.

“Our guys came out very strong in the third period and got goals quick and got more of a lead,” Stajcer told MSG Network’s Dave Maloney after the game. “I don’t think we can ask better than 5-2 and 6- 2 wins. It’s a big win, and we just have to look forward to Carolina (on Tuesday). I think we can go all the way with the team we have.”

A victory over the 0-2 Hurricanes would put the Rangers in the championship game Wednesday, when they would try to duplicate the 2007 team that won the tournament title.

Stacjer nearly won the Memorial Cup last season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack, whose coach was former Hartford Whalers wing Mark Reeds, assisted by former Hartford Wolf Pack defenseman Terry Virtue. Reeds was named an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators on June 23, while Virtue remains Owen Sound’s assistant under new coach Greg Ireland.

Stacjer excelled at the outset of last season before the hip surgery sidelined him for four months. He got a break when Michael Zador got sick in the third period of Game 1 of the OHL’s Western Conference playoffs against Plymouth. Stajcer played the third period and overtime to earn the win, and the Attack went on to sweep the Whalers in four games. In the conference finals, Stajcer lost Game 1 against Windsor and then won four straight, so he had eight victories before getting an infected foot in the OHL finals. He tried to play through the pain but lost three games before Jordan Binnington led the Attack to an upset of heavily favored Mississauga in seven games to represent the OHL in the Memorial Cup. But after shutting out Kootenay 5-0 in the first game, injuries caught up with the Attack, as they lost their next two round-robin games, followed by a 7-3 loss in a tiebreaker, to be eliminated from the tournament.

“Last season started well, then I got the injury and my goalie partner Jordan Binnington, who’s here with the St. Louis Blues, really held us in there,” Stajcer said. “We came out first, had a great season, and I came back in the playoffs and oddly enough got my shot (again) when a goalie went down sick in the third period. I just kind of rolled with it, and it was a great year winning the OHL championship and going to the Memorial Cup. It was unbelievable.”

Stajcer said he has been helped by Rangers goaltending coach Benoit Allaire, who likes the goalie’s size (6 feet 3, 195 pounds) and the way he moves. Stajcer said he has to improve his positioning at the pro level.

“A lot of the time the shots in the NHL come quick, and you just have to be ready and set,” Stajcer said. “Benoit helps me out a ton. He’s a wealth of knowledge, and I can’t ask for a better goalie coach than him.”

The Rangers took the lead for good when J.T. Miller, their first-round pick (15th overall) in June, scored only 21 seconds into the game off a pass from Carl Hagelin, but they didn’t dominate as much early as they did against the less talented Blues. The Rangers were outshot 15-7 through most of the first period but had a 2-1 lead thanks largely to Stajcer. He allowed only one goal in the period when Cole Grbavac converted Jamie Oleksiak’s rebound off a 3-on-2 rush as a delayed penalty was being called on defenseman/captain Dylan McIlrath, the Rangers’ first-round pick (10th overall) in 2010.

But the Rangers already had a 2-0 lead on goals by Miller and Shane McColgan, who patiently broke in 3-on-1 and took a shot that deflected in off Stars goalie Jack Campbell, a first-round pick (11th overall) in 2010, when he was a hero in Team USA’s gold medal run in the World Junior Championships.

After being outshot badly through most of the opening 20 minutes, the Rangers got the last five shots of the period and took a 3-1 lead as a shot by Bourque, son of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, deflected off the skate of Stars defenseman Jace Coyle and past Campbell.

Adhering to Gernander’s televised first-intermission plea to be more diligent defensively, the Rangers tightened up in the second period and did an excellent job killing a Stars power play midway through the 20 minutes. They allowed only four shots in the first 15 minutes, but Stajcer got fortunate during the Stars’ second power play when Nick Layton missed an open net after a shot ricocheted crazily toward the right post.

But the Stars got to 3-2 when they converted a third power play in the period with 17.8 seconds left when Grbavac found Matt Fraser breaking in off right wing for his fourth goal in two games. He had the hat trick in the Stars’ 8-2 victory over the Hurricanes in their opener.

After Gernander’s plea for stronger skating and more pressure during the second intermission, the Rangers were hemmed in their own end early in the third period before responding with 12 shots and two goals in the first 6½ minutes.

First, Wilson rushed down left wing and converted the rebound of defenseman Blake Parlett’s shot off the post at 1:52. It was the fourth assist in two games for Parlett, who excelled for the Whale late last season after being called up from Greenville and was an assistant captain Sunday with Hagelin.

Yogan, who failed to convert three excellent scoring chances in the opener, finally broke through as he fired in a rebound of a shot by defenseman Lee Baldwin, who had made a strong rush down right wing.

And the Rangers didn’t stop there as they amassed a 14-0 shot advantage in the first 10:40 of the period and took a 6-2 lead when Bourque half-fanned on a one-timer on a 5-on-3 power play but saw the puck trickle through Campbell’s legs at 9:14 to end the scoring.

The Rangers will practice Monday before Missiaen, who worked out but didn’t play with the Whale this spring after signing free-agent and amateur tryout contracts, will be in goal again against the Hurricanes at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. Missiaen had 18 saves in the opening victory, which was highlighted by a goal and an assist from Hagelin, Tim Erixon and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and three assists by Parlett that tied the Rangers’ tournament record shared by Derek Stepan, David Skokan and Justin Soryal. The Hurricanes’ roster includes Jared Staal, the youngest of the four Staal brothers playing pro hockey, including Rangers’ All-Star defenseman Marc Staal.

Placement after three games in the round-robin tournament will determine whom each of eight teams face in the championship round Wednesday at times to be determined. The Rangers’ traveling party returns to New York that night, then most of the players report to Rangers training camp Thursday before workouts begin Friday. The Rangers’ prospects tournament games are on MSG Network and the NHL Network. One of the second-period guests of John Giannone and Joe Micheletti on Sunday was Stars scout Bob Gernander, the father of Ken Gernander and a longtime successful high school coach in Minnesota


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