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Opilka’s 34-save performance propels Rangers past Otters

 

When the Kitchener Rangers’ goaltending is as hot as it is right now, they’ll give their team a chance to win any night – no matter who the opponent is.

Luke Opilka put on a 34-save performance as the Rangers (24-14-2-2) snapped a three-game Erie Otters win streak (29-10-2-1) with a 2-1 win in front of 7,122 fans at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium on Sunday.

Opilka, who improves to 7-7-1-1 on the season, was integral throughout the afternoon for the Blueshirts, coming up big in both 5-on-5 and special teams situations, guiding his team to their second straight victory.

Troy Timpano (26-5-0-0) took the loss in goal for the Otters, who wrapped up a weekend of three games in two-and-a-half days. Timpano surrendered two goals on 19 Rangers shots.

Although match-ups between the divisional rivals are always highly anticipated, today’s meeting between the clubs brought a little something extra as Rangers forward Adam Mascherin entered the game with a one-point lead over Otters forward Alex DeBrincat for the overall league lead in points.

DeBrincat did manage to tally an assist on the Otters lone goal of the game, but he was one-upped by Mascherin who assisted on both Rangers goals to take a two-point lead in the points race.

Mascherin now rides an eight-game point streak, tallying two goals and 15 points over that span.

After a scoreless first period, Nick McHugh gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead, burying a pretty pass from Mascherin from the corner at 4:19 of the second period. Dylan Di Perna picked up the second assist.

With just over five minutes to play in the period Greg Meireles made it 2-0 with his 10th goal of the season, from Mascherin and Joseph Garreffa, at 14:51.

Just 30 seconds later, though, the Otters would climb back to within one, as Ivan Lodnia made it a 2-1 game. DeBrincat and Dylan Strome picked up the assists on the goal, which came at 16:21.

Shots on goal were tied 7-7 after one period of play, and 19-16 Erie after two.

The Otters came out pressing in the third period, ultimately outshooting the Rangers 16-3 in the final frame but Opilka couldn’t be beat, shutting the door and picking up his first win since facing these same Erie Otters right here at the Aud back on January 1.

Kitchener would finish 0-for-3 on the power play and so, too, would the Otters. Erie has now been stifled in their last 12 chances with the man advantage dating back to Friday night vs. the Ottawa 67’s.

With three successful penalty kills, Heffner Lexus Toyota graciously donates another $30 to the Heffner Lexus Toyota PK Tally for a running total this season of $1,380 in support of Sun Life Financial Kids in Gear.

Darren Raddysh (ER) (3), Nick McHugh (KIT) (2) and Luke Opilka (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.

The Rangers are back in action on Tuesday as their five-game homestand continues when they host the Guelph Storm at 7pm.

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.

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