It sure didn’t take long to see the connection between Ryan MacInnis and Jeremy Bracco.
MacInnis scored four goals – three on the power play – with Bracco assisting on two of them, as the Kitchener Rangers exploded with a four goal third period to down the Peterborough Petes 7-2 in front of 1,946 fans at the Peterborough Memorial Centre on Thursday night.
It was the first four-goal game of MacInnis’ career, and the first time a Rangers player accomplished the feat since Tyler Randell versus the Plymouth Whalers in the playoffs on April 17, 2012. The last time it was done in the regular season was by Jeremy Morin on October 12, 2009 versus the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
The win was the eighth straight for the Rangers, who saw their record improve to 10-0-3-0 and maintain an unblemished track record in regulation to start the OHL season.
Following the game MacInnis and Bracco had nothing but high praise for one another.
“A lot of credit to the guys I was playing with tonight,” Bracco told 570 News post-game. “Coming in to my first OHL game, I felt real comfortable. The coaching staff helped me to adapt quickly, and the guys I was playing with [Robinson and MacInnis] made me feel like I belong.
“I’m just happy to be here.”
MacInnis echoed the sentiments of his new linemate.
“Bracco was great at finding me out there. We had a bit of history [playing at US World Junior camp in the summer] but things just seemed to click out there, especially on the power play. He made some sweet passes to me, one real nice on a back door play. I can’t complain.”
There really isn’t much for the Rangers to complain about, as they’re coming off being ranked as the third best team in the Canadian Hockey League in the BMO CHL Top-10 Rankings yesterday. But despite the positive result, head coach Mike Van Ryn would like to see his team play at an even more consistent level for a full 60-minutes – something that didn’t happen out of the gate tonight.
“The last two [periods] were good, but the first one not so much, and I think our players would admit that,” said Van Ryn, referencing a first period which saw the Rangers outshot 12-7. “I don’t know if we started getting a little over confident reading rankings and things like that, but we’re lucky we weren’t behind by three goals because they took it to us in the first.
“But in the second, we started skating more and the confidence came back and the power play was good tonight.”
The addition of Bracco to the lineup may not have come at a better time, as the Rangers lost their then-leading scorer Adam Mascherin for the unforeseeable future on Sunday due to an upper body injury. Van Ryn says he likes how his team has both responded and stepped up amidst various injuries being dealt to his club, and how they have produced offense by committee.
“Something we talked about since day one was that we were going to have to be a team that needs different guys to step up every night. Every night we need somebody to rise up and be that guy that scores a goal and gets us going. So far we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been able to find that almost on a nightly basis.”
They once again got good goaltending from their starter who tonight, was Luke Opilka. He backstopped his team to a win by making 29 saves, including a highlight-reel-worthy, sprawling save in the first period, en route to his seventh win as a member of the Rangers.
Dylan Wells was saddled with the loss for the Petes (5-6-1-2), who suffered their sixth straight loss. Wells allowed seven goals on 30 shots.
Gustaf Franzen and Connor Bunnaman also had strong showings, potting a goal and two assists each, while Brandon Robinson extended his season-long point streak to six games (5G, 5A=10Pts).
Jake Henderson opened the game’s scoring, giving the Rangers a 1-0 lead just as their first power play of the game had expired, assisted by Bunnaman and Mason Kohn at 12:24 of the first period. The Petes were outshooting the Rangers 7-1 when the visitors got themselves on the board.
Logan DeNoble would tie the game for the Petes with 3:15 remaining in the frame after cutting into the crease and creating a difficult screen in front of Opilka. Matt Spencer picked up the lone assist on the final goal of the period, sending the game to the first intermission in a 1-1 stalemate which saw the Petes outshoot the Rangers 12-7.
MacInnis gave the Rangers back the lead at 8:35 of the second on a shot from the right faceoff dot that found its way through a flurry of players jammed in the slot and past the Petes netminder Wells. Robinson picked up the lone assist, making it a 2-1 game.
MacInnis struck again at 12:13, this time on a beautiful feed from Bracco on the power play to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead. Frank Hora picked up the second assist on the goal, which gave the visitors their first two goal lead of the night. MacInnis’ second of the night and eighth of the season would close out the second period, which saw the Petes again outshoot the Rangers, this time 10-8.
Josh Coyle cut the Rangers lead to 3-2 with a quick goal to start the third period just 29 seconds in, assisted by DeNoble and Josh Maguire, but the Rangers took over the game from there on out. The two goal lead would quickly be restored for Kitchener as MacInnis completed the hat trick with a power play marker after being rewarded on a great second effort, banking the puck off of Wells from behind the goal line at 3:39. Franzen and Robinson earned the assists.
Nearly four minutes later Brian Brosnan fired a shot just wide of the goal and it was Franzen with a nice, heads-up play near the hash marks and a pretty tip-in to give the Rangers a three goal lead, 5-2 at 7:56, with Bunnaman picking up the second assist.
The Bracco to MacInnis connection struck once more, yet again on the power play as MacInnis buried his fourth goal of the night at 11:55 putting the Rangers up 6-2, with Hora picking up another assist.
Bunnaman off the draw in the offensive end just 39 seconds later gave the Rangers the 7-2 lead, assisted by Franzen, to close out the game’s scoring. After being outshot 22-15 through 40 minutes, the Rangers took control on the shot clock as well as on the score sheet directing 15 shots on the Peterborough goal, to the Petes nine. Final shots were 31-30 Peterborough.
The Rangers were potent on the power play, as evidenced by three of MacInnis’ four goals on the night coming by way of the man advantage. The team scored on 75% of their chances on the PP, going 3-for-4. The Petes were held scoreless in four tries with the extra man.
Mike Davies returned to the Rangers lineup after missing two games due to injury. Defenceman Elijah Roberts and associate coach Jay McKee were not on hand for the Rangers as they are away for the U-17’s which begin October 30th.
MacInnis, Hora, and Brosnan each wore ‘A’s and skated as assistant captains for the game.
Opilka (3), Bracco (2) and MacInnis (1) were chosen as the Three Stars of the game.
The Rangers are back in action tomorrow night, October 30th at 7:30pm when the North Bay Battalion make their one and only visit to the Aud this season. Fans are encouraged to dress up in their best Halloween costumes for the game.
Mystery Pucks will be on sale throughout the game in the North Concourse. Current and former Rangers players, 21 in total, have signed a total of 400 pucks which have been individually wrapped with the autograph on each puck hidden. Pucks are $20 and all proceeds will go to support Clarky’s Kids.
Tickets for the Rangers next home game are available online at kitchenerrangers.com, by calling Centre in the Square, or through The Aud Box Office.