The Kitchener Rangers (28-20-2-2) almost let another one slip away on Tuesday night at the Aud, but Adam Mascherin had something else to say about it.
The third-year winger and Florida Panthers prospect scored the game winner with 1:39 to play in overtime and added an assist in regulation to help guide the Rangers to a 4-3 win over the Niagara IceDogs (17-26-6-3) in front of 6,665 fans. The win effectively snaps a four-game losing streak for the Blueshirts.
The two-point night propels Mascherin to 82 points on the season (32G, 50A), setting a new career high in points in a season.
Luke Opilka (10-12-1-1) got back into the win column, making 31 saves on 34 shots faced.
Colton Incze (2-5-2-0) took the loss in goal, despite making 32 saves in goal for the IceDogs while facing 36 Rangers shots.
Both teams were hungry for points, as the sixth-place Rangers (60 points) expanded their lead over seventh place Sarnia Sting (56) to four points. Kitchener trails the Owen Sound Attack (68) by eight points, although the Attack maintain two games in hand.
The IceDogs desperately wanted to steal two points on the road to help in their playoff push, but they’d have to settle for a single one. The IceDogs (43 points) leapfrogged idle North Bay Battalion (42) and now sit in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Battalion have two games in hand.
Dylan Di Perna’s sixth of the season gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at the 8:01 mark of the opening period, unassisted.
The Rangers would go up 2-0 shortly afterwards, as Jake Henderson put a puck on Incze but was stopped. Llewellyn banked in the rebound for his 16th of the season, from Henderson and Kyle Gentles, at 13:54.
Shots on goal after the first period of play were 14-8 Kitchener.
The IceDogs got themselves on the board in the second period, cutting the Rangers lead to 2-1 on a goal by Joshua Dame, just his second of the season from Pavel Demin and Andrew Somerville at 10:51.
At 15:26, the Rangers were awarded an extended power play after Kyle Langdon was assessed a match penalty for a check to the head of Rangers forward Nick McHugh. The penalty brought a five-minute major penalty, along with a game misconduct to Langdon. McHugh would eventually skate off the ice on his own accord, but did not return.
The IceDogs found themselves in more trouble after taking yet another penalty – this time for holding – just 25 seconds after the call to Langdon, and the Rangers would capitalize.
After a pretty passing play in the offensive zone it was Greg Meireles who tapped in his 13th goal of the season into a wide-open cage to restore the two-goal Kitchener lead, 3-1. Connor Bunnaman and Mascherin earned the assists on the power play goal, which rounded out second period scoring at 16:23.
Second period shots on goal were 13-10 Niagara for a two-period total of 24-21 Kitchener.
Liam Ham tallied his second goal of the season to once again bring the IceDogs to within one, making it 3-2 at 7:36 of the third period, unassisted.
With just under two minutes to play in regulation Johnny Corneil, Ben Jones and Danial Singer each extended their personal point streaks to five consecutive games, as Corneil’s 23rd of the season, assisted by Jones and Singer sent the game to five minute, 3-on-3 overtime tied 3-3.
Mascherin registered his 32nd goal of the season to clinch the extra point for the Rangers with 1:39 left on the clock in the extra frame, with Llewellyn and Frank Hora picking up the assists on the game winner.
Shots on goal in the third period of play were 10-9 Kitchener and 4-2 Niagara in OT, for a game total of 36-34 Rangers.
Kitchener was 1-for-6 on the power play, while the IceDogs were 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
With two successful penalty kills, Heffner Lexus Toyota graciously donates another $20 to the Heffner Lexus Toyota PK Tally, which is at a running total of $1,600 in support of Sun Life Financial Kids in Gear.
Greg Meireles (KIT) (3), Colton Incze (NIA) (2) and Darby Llewellyn (KIT) (1) were selected as the Three Stars of the Game.
Dylan Di Perna and Llewellyn each wore an “A” and skated as alternates to Rangers captain Frank Hora.
Llewellyn was acknowledged pre-game for playing in his 285th regular season game as a member of the Kitchener Rangers on Saturday in Flint. The 285th regular season game gave him sole possession of second all-time in regular season games played in Rangers’ franchise history. The record is 324, set by Andre Benoit (2000-05).
The Rangers are back in action on Friday, February 10th when they host Midwest Division opponent, the London Knights, at 7pm ET. The game will be nationally televised on Rogers Sportsnet Ontario, East, West and Pacific.
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.