Late third period surge earns Rangers victory over Bulldogs
Any hockey fan knows that some nights it can be a game of inches. Friday night, it was also a game of seconds.
Brian Brosnan and Ryan MacInnis scored 16 seconds apart in the latter half of the third period to lead the Kitchener Rangers (27-6-4-0) to a 4-2 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs (14-22-3-0) in front of 7,118 fans at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
After taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, the Rangers were prepared to go up 2-1 after 40 minutes, but the Bulldogs tallied the equalizer with less than a second left on the clock in the period, on the power play, to make it a 2-2 game heading into the final frame.
Despite coming out with two points and another game in the win column, Rangers head coach Mike Van Ryn felt his team still has more to offer than what they showed tonight.
“Brosnan’s goal was a big time goal for us, but unfortunately, there’s not too much more to be positive about besides that,” he told 570 News, post-game. “We scored a fancy goal in the first period to give us a lead, but it seemed like we wanted to be too cute after that.
“I might have seen the most odd-man rushes given up by our guys tonight that I’ve seen us allow all year. But we’re a team that knows when we need to tighten things up and we’ll make sure we do that before we play a tough opponent in the Frontenacs here on Sunday.”
MacInnis’ return from his World Junior Championship appearance was a welcome sight to Rangers fans, and the centre picked up right where he left off, extending a now 14-game point streak consisting of nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in that span. Adam Mascherin now rides a 12-game point streak (8-13=21) after assisting on the MacInnis goal.
Rangers fans were also delighted to see the return of Rangers goaltender Luke Opilka. The 18-year-old hadn’t seen action since December 8th but was sharp tonight, making 29 saves on 31 shots for the win. He improves his record to 18-3-2-0 on the season.
After the game, Opilka said the warm welcome back from Rangers Nation was a definite boost, and that it was good to finally get back into game action.
“I’m feeling good. I’m just glad to finally be back in there playing again,” he said. “The ovation from the fans was great. Once the game started, I just tried to focus on playing for my teammates, because they always play for me. It was good to get the win in the first game back.”
Connor Hicks started in goal for the Bulldogs and took the loss, allowing four goals on 33 shots.
Jeremy Bracco opened the game’s scoring at 8:14 with a highlight-worthy goal, dragging the puck around a Hamilton defender then roofing the puck over Hicks. Gustaf Franzen picked up the lone assist on the period’s lone goal. The Rangers outshot the Bulldogs 12-6 in the opening frame.
Niki Petti would tie the game for the Bulldogs from Matt Luff at 10:24 of the second, but it was Elijah Roberts with his third career goal that gave the Rangers their one-goal lead right back just
1:08 later, assisted by Nick Magyar and Mason Kohn making it 2-1 at 11:32.
With the Bulldogs on the power play, Trent Fox tied the game 2-2 with less than a second left on the clock, assisted by Brandon Saigeon and Benjamin Gleason. Shots were 16-9 in the second period for a two-period total of 22-21 in favour of the Bulldogs.
The first half of the third period was a tight-knit affair, but Brosnan opened things up with a blast from the left point, beating Hicks at 12:53 to put the Rangers up 3-2. Jacob Cascagnette picked up the lone assist with his drop pass off the draw.
Just 16 seconds later the Rangers struck again, this time by MacInnis, assisted by Bracco and Mascherin at 13:09, making it a 4-2 game, and eventual final.
Shots in the third period were 11-10 in favour of Kitchener, and 33-31 Kitchener, overall.
The Bulldogs were 1-for-3 on the power play, while Kitchener was denied an opportunity with the man advantage on the night.
MacInnis and Dmitrii Sergeev (who did not dress) were honoured prior to puck drop with an optical crystal globe award commemorating their participation in the 2016 World Junior Championship.
Petti (3), Brosnan (2) and Bracco (1) were chosen as the Three Stars of the Game.
Brosnan, MacInnis and Frank Hora each wore ‘A’s and skated as alternate captains for the game.
The Rangers return to game action on Sunday when they host the Eastern Conference leading Kingston Frontenacs at 2pm. They take to the road on Tuesday, January 12th when they travel to the Harrly Lumley Bayshore Community Centre to take on the Owen Sound Attack for a 7pm start.
Tickets for the Rangers next home game, or any other future Rangers home games are available online at kitchenerrangers.com, by calling Centre in the Square, or through The Aud Box Office.