Adam Mascherin scored a goal and added two assists, while David Miller scored his first goal since returning from a 16-game absence – and did so against his former team – as the Kitchener Rangers downed the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 5-4 in front of 6,763 fans at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex on Sunday afternoon.
The Rangers become the second team in the Ontario Hockey League to reach the 20-win mark, improving to 20-3-3-0. They Greyhounds dip to 9-13-3-0 but remain one point up on the idle Saginaw Spirit for eighth spot in the Western Conference standings.
Luke Opilka improved to 15-3-2-0 on the season, needing just 18 saves to help solidify the win in goal for the Rangers. Brandon Halverson (5-9-1-0) was dealt the loss for the Soo, allowing five goals on 38 shots he faced.
After giving up the opening goal of the game to the Greyhounds on the power play the Rangers stormed back, taking a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. But the Greyhounds wouldn’t roll over, battling from both 3-1 and 5-2 deficits to eventually make it 5-4 with 1:07 left to play, but fell short of completing the comeback.
Rangers head coach Mike Van Ryn attributed the Greyhounds ability to stick around in the game partly to the hard work of their team, but also to a level of neglect on the part of his players to commit to what’s been their game plan from early on in the season.
“It’s getting old, having negative meetings after the games we win,” said Van Ryn, post-game. “We’re still striving to get back to where we were when we were doing things the right way at the beginning of the season. I hate to be negative after games, normally it’s not who I am, but we’ve got to get back to doing things the right way.
“There are times when I see flashes of it out there, but then we get away from it and start to cheat. You never slap two points in the face because they’re tough to come by, but we need to understand that it’s about more than just winning, it’s about becoming better.
“Not taking anything away from the Soo Greyhounds, they played us hard. But we’ll be working hard this week in practice to try to get back to where we were the last time we played the 67’s.”
Mascherin and Miller didn’t begin the afternoon playing alongside one other, but as the game progressed that’s where they found themselves, and both had nothing but praise for the others play.
“It’s interesting when you start a game playing with guys, then you finish playing with others, but that’s the game,” said Mascherin. “We have some great depth on this team.
“I want to be known not only as a guy that can get moved around from line to line, if need be. But I also want my teammates to feel like I’m an easy guy to play with, too.”
Miller was happy just to be back in the lineup for his third game since missing considerable time due to a lower-body injury, but it certainly didn’t hurt to pick up a goal against his former team while he was at it.
“It definitely feels good to be back on the ice and playing again,” Miller said. “Plus playing my old teammates always means something, I was close with those guys when I was there, but it definitely feels good to get a goal against them, too.”
Like Van Ryn, he acknowledges that despite the win, the team has some areas they need to address and improve on.
“I don’t think we played the full 60 [minutes]. We need to find a way to figure out how to do that. Good teams find ways to win, but better teams do it while sticking to the plan on a consistent basis. We need to be ready for our next game.”
The Greyhounds opened the scoring with a power play goal by Bobby MacIntyre at 9:32 of the opening period from Tyler Hore and Jack Kopacka to take a 1-0 lead. The Rangers would take command of the latter half of the period however, scoring three goals in a span of just under four minutes to go up 3-1.
Jacob Cascagnette would start things off for the Rangers with his fourth goal of the season, assisted by Nick McHugh and Nick Magyar at 14:28.
Darby Llewellyn then gave the Rangers the lead just 50 seconds later at 15:18 from Mascherin and Mason Kohn, scoring his 9th goal of the season in what was his 200th regular season career game as a member of the Rangers organization.
The Blueshirts scored their third of the period with just 1:44 remaining on a goal by Ryan MacInnis, unassisted, to send the game to the first intermission with the Rangers up 3-1. Shots were 17-9 in favour of the Rangers during the first period of play.
The Greyhounds would cut the Rangers lead to 3-2 just 1:30 into the second period as Colton White capitalized on a Rangers turnover. It was the only goal of the period for either team as the Rangers held a 28-16 lead in shots through 40 minutes.
Miller put the Rangers up 4-2 at 3:30 of the third period, assisted by Mascherin and MacInnis, then Mascherin tallied one of his own – his 12th of the season – at 6:37 from Joseph Garreffa and Elijah Roberts to give the Rangers a 5-2 lead.
Keigan Goetz made it a 5-3 game at 9:52 from Morgan Frost and Kopacka, then the Greyhounds would add another, making it 5-4 with just 1:07 to play after a goal by Blake Speers from Gustav Bourammen and White. The Soo pulled their goaltender in an attempt to tie the game but fell short, as the final shots were 38-22 in favour of the Rangers.
MacInnis, Brandon Robinson and Frank Hora each wore ‘A’s and skated as alternate captains for the game.
White (3), Miler (2) and Mascherin (1) were chosen as the Three Stars of the Game.
The Rangers are back in action on Friday, December 4th when they host the Ottawa 67’s at 7:30pm for their lone game of the weekend.
Tickets for future Rangers home games are available online at kitchenerrangers.com, by calling Centre in the Square, or through The Aud Box Office.