The Kitchener Rangers did well to twice battle back from two-goal deficits, but at the end of the day, their penalty kill came back to bite them.
Justin Brazeau scored twice, including the game winning goal which came with 54 seconds remaining in regulation, as the North Bay Battalion (8-13-3-0) claimed a 5-4 win over the Rangers (15-7-2-0) in front of 2,216 fans at the North Bay Memorial Gardens on Thursday night.
The Battalion jumped out to a 2-0, first period lead by way of a 2-for-2 power play through the opening 20 minutes. The Troops would add another special teams marker while on the man advantage in the second period to ultimately give them another two-goal lead, 4-2, but the Rangers would manage to battle back and once again tie the game in the third before Brazeau’s clincher.
Chris McGonigle (1-1-1-0) was certainly the lesser-worked of the two goaltenders, as the Rangers outshot the Battalion 38-23. McGonigle suffered his first regulation loss of the season, making 18 saves.
Julian Sime (4-8-3-0) picked up the win in goal, turning aside 34 shots despite surrendering four goals.
The loss marks the end of a four-game win streak for the Rangers, and a span of nine straight games registering at least a point.
The win marks just the third time this season the Battalion have registered back-to-back wins.
The season series between the Rangers and Battalion is wrapped up, with each team claiming a win following the Rangers 2-1 victory at The Aud back on October 29.
A power play goal by Adam McMaster gave the Battalion a 1-0 lead just 5:20 into the game, from Nick King and goaltender Sime.
They struck again – and again while on the power play – to take a 2-0 lead just over four minutes later on a goal by Cam Dineen. Luke Burghardt and Brett McKenzie earned the assists on the goal at 9:30.
The Battalion skated into the first intermission with the two-goal lead, but were outshot by the Blueshirts, 16-10.
Near the midway point of the middle frame the Rangers would make their move, beginning with Logan Stanley who got the visitors on the board, from Connor Hall and Connor Bunnaman, cutting the North Bay lead to 2-1 at 8:49.
Under two minutes later with a man advantage of their own, Riley Damiani tied things up, 2-2, with a pretty spin-shot from one knee after some great puck movement from the Rangers. Adam Mascherin and Bunnaman picked up the assists on the goal at 10:42.
But then the Battalion responded quickly, as McGonigle got a piece of an initial shot, but the puck trickled behind him lying in the blue paint. He reached back to cover it, but Brazeau poked at the glove of the goaltender and the puck sprung free, finding the back of the net at 11:17. Dineen and McKenzie picked up the assists on the 3-2, go-ahead goal which came just 35 seconds after Damiani’s equalizer.
North Bay’s two-goal lead returned with yet another power play marker, this one off the stick of King, from Riley Bruce and Brad Chenier at 15:56.
Before the period was out, however, the Rangers would get one back, as Jonathan Yantsis tallied his second goal of the season to cut the Battalion lead to 4-3, from Nick McHugh, at 18:29.
Shots on goal through 40 minutes of play favoured Kitchener, 27-18.
The game was once again tied just 2:15 into the third period by way of Damiani’s second of the night, assisted by Joseph Garreffa and Jake Henderson, to make it a 4-4 game.
Things looked poised to head to extra time, but with 53 seconds remaining in regulation it was Brazeau with his second of the game who gave the Battalion their third lead of the night, 5-4, at 19:06.
Following the goal, McGonigle retreated to the Rangers’ bench in favour of an extra attacker. The Rangers had a number of chances to once again tie the game, including a Stanley shot off a Bunnaman rebound which ended up striking a down-and-out, sprawling Sime but failed to find the back of the net.
Final shots on goal were 38-23, Kitchener.
The Rangers were 1-for-3 on the power play while the Battalion were a potent 3-for-4 with the man advantage.
Riley Damiani (KIT) (3), Cam Dineen (NB) (2), and Justin Brazeau (NB) (1) were selected as the Three Stars of the Game.
Logan Stanley, Adam Mascherin, and Kole Sherwood each wore an “A” and skated as alternates to Rangers’ captain Connor Bunnaman.
The Rangers continue their northern swing this weekend as they get ready to take on the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds tomorrow night, Friday, November 24 at 7:07pm. They’ll close out the weekend on Sunday, November 26 when they visit the Sudbury Wolves for a 2pm start.
They’ll play their fourth straight road game in Owen Sound against the Attack at the Bayshore on Wednesday, November 29 at 7pm before finally returning home to The Aud to host the Attack on Friday, December 1 at 7:30pm.
Regular season tickets to all Kitchener Rangers home games are $23.00 each for adults, $19.00 for children 12 and under including HST, and are available in person or by calling the Activa Box Office at The Aud, from Centre in the Square (519) 578-1570 -or- 1-800-265-8977, or by purchasing online.
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