The Kitchener Rangers rallied from a 4-1, third period deficit to claim a 5-4 shootout win over the North Bay Battalion in front of 7,126 fans on Don Cameron Potato Night at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium on Friday.
The Rangers (27-16-2-2) became the third straight team to defeat the Battalion (18-24-3-1) after the Troops endured a third period collapse.
The Battalion led 3-0 Saturday over the Peterborough Petes before surrendering five unanswered goals in the third and losing 5-3. On Sunday, the Battalion and Saginaw Spirit were tied 3-3 heading into the final frame, but North Bay surrendered three unanswered goals in the third to lose 6-3.
Tonight – after a four-goal second period – the Battalion were again sitting pretty heading into the final 20 minutes, leading 4-1. But the home team pressed, and three even strength goals from the Rangers squared things up at 4-4, before they eventually capped off the comeback in the shootout.
Darby Llewellyn was the game’s First Star and with good reason, as the 20-year-old Ann Arbor, MI native was in on all four Rangers’ goals in regulation – including potting the game-tying goal with just 19 seconds left in the third to send the game to overtime.
Luke Richardson (4-0-0-0) kept his record unblemished on the season, making 29 saves in regulation, two in overtime, and stopping all four shots he faced in the shootout for the victory.
Julian Sime (2-9-0-1) surrendered four goals and a single goal in the shootout, but made 35 saves through regulation and overtime.
Adam Mascherin – who had missed the Rangers’ previous two games to injury – returned to the lineup and potted a goal and an assist, as did teammate Connor Bunnaman.
Bunnaman opened the game’s scoring in the first period with a highlight-reel effort for the Rangers, tallying his 24th of the season, from Llewellyn, at 2:12 of the first period.
The Rangers maintained the one-goal lead through the first period of play, outshooting the Battalion 10-4 in the process.
Things took a turn for the worse in the second period for Kitchener, however, as the team was outshot 17-7 and outscored 4-0.
Zach Poirier tied the game, 1-1, with his first shorthanded goal of the season, assisted by Zach Shankar at 4:15.
Steve Harland scored his 21st of the season to pick up points in six consecutive games, giving the Battalion a 2-1 lead from Brett McKenzie and Adam Thilander at 10:32.
Just 51 seconds later Poirier potted his second of the game to make it 3-1 Battalion, from Shankar and Daniil Vertiy, at 11:23.
The Rangers were given a prime opportunity to cut the Battalion lead to one as they headed to the power play at 11:34, but the Troops struck with their second shorthanded marker of the night on a goal by McKenzie just eight seconds into the penalty. Max Kislinger and Shoemaker picked up the assists on the goal which gave North Bay a 4-1 lead and rounded out second period scoring.
The tide would begin to turn when the puck was dropped for the third period, as Mascherin scored his 29th of the season to make it a 4-2 game, from Greg Meireles and Llewellyn, at 4:21.
Past the midway point of the third period with the Rangers buzzing in the offensive zone, a goal-mouth scramble caused a commotion; the goal light was on, but the referee was vehemently waving no goal.
After a very lengthy review, the puck was indeed deemed a good goal, and the Rangers found themselves down by just one, 4-3, as Joseph Garreffa registered his 16th goal of the season, from Kyle Gentles and Llewellyn, at 12:36.
Llewellyn’s 15th of the season came with Richardson on the bench in favour of an extra attacker, and tied the game with just 19 seconds to play, from Mascherin and Bunnaman, to send the game to overtime tied 4-4.
After the five-minute OT the Rangers would shoot first in the shootout, sending Mascherin (X), Eric Guest (X), Bunnaman (X) and Nick McHugh (Goal) to centre ice.
The Battalion would counter with Justin Brazeau (X), Vertiy (X), Harland (X), and Thilander (X) who were all stopped by Richardson.
Shots on goal in the third period of play were 18-12 Kitchener, for a total of 35-33 Rangers in regulation. Shots were 4-2 Kitchener in OT.
Kitchener was 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Battalion were also 0-for-2 with the man advantage, yet scored twice while shorthanded.
With two successful penalty kills, Heffner Lexus Toyota graciously donates another $20 to the Heffner Lexus Toyota PK Tally for a running total this season of $1,510 in support of Sun Life Financial Kids in Gear.
Zach Poirier (NB) (3), Kyle Gentles (KIT) (2) and Darby Llewellyn (KIT) (1) were selected as the Three Stars of the Game.
Dylan Di Perna and Darby Llewellyn each wore an “A” and skated as alternates to Rangers captain Frank Hora.
Friday night also marked the 20th annual Don Cameron Potato Night, which kicked off the House of Friendship’s 22nd annual February Potato Blitz.
Fans at the game contributed 6,110lbs of potatoes. Zehr’s Market stores will match the donation, which means over 12,200lbs of potatoes will kick off the Blitz. Fans also made cash donations of $7,300.39. This money will be used to buy 36,502 additional pounds of potatoes at a special rate, making the most of your donations.
Proceeds from Don Cameron Potato Night will help House of Friendship provide emergency food assistance to our neighbours in need. Fans are able to continue to donate to the Potato Blitz by texting the word ‘SHARE’ to 41010, which pledges $5 to the House of Friendship per text.
The Rangers wrap up the weekend when they travel to Owen Sound to take on the Attack on Sunday, January 29th at 2pm. The Rangers are in London to take on the Knights at 7pm on Wednesday, February 1st before returning home to the Aud a week from tonight, Friday, February 3rd when they host Jeremy Bracco and the Windsor Spitfires at 7:30pm.
Regular season tickets to Kitchener Rangers home games are $22.50 each for adults, $18.50 for children 12 and under, including HST and are available in person or by calling the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Box Office or Centre in the Square (519) 578-1570 -or- 1-800-265-8977, or by purchasing online.