It was a meeting between the first and second place teams in the Ontario Hockey League’s western conference, and the number one and number five ranked teams in the Canadian Hockey League.
And it sure felt like it.
Waterloo native Boris Katchouk broke open a 3-3 tie at 11:25 of the third period to give the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (53-7-2-2) a 4-3 win over the Kitchener Rangers (42-20-2-0) in front of 7,248 fans at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium on Friday night.
With impact forwards Logan Brown and Givani Smith out of the lineup the Blueshirts found themselves in a hole early, trailing 3-0 in a span of 3:43 in the game’s opening ten minutes.
But Adam Mascherin got the home side on the board before the opening period was out, then Joseph Garreffa and Kole Sherwood would each score on 5-on-3 power play opportunities to tie the game 3-3 early in the third period.
Mario Culina (15-10-2-0) was called upon to face 43 Soo shots against, turning aside 39 in the loss.
Matthew Villalta (40-5-1-1) made 31 saves in the win.
The Greyhounds opened the game’s scoring at 4:46 as Katchouk put the Soo up 1-0, from Morgan Frost and Matt Hollowell.
It was 2-0 just under a minute later, as Keeghan Howdeshell scored his 15th of the season, from Tim Gettinger and Jordan Sambrook, at 5:44.
Hayden Verbeek made it 3-0 for the visitors, from Howdeshell and Gettinger, at 8:29 before Mascherin made it a 3-1 game with his 39th of the season, from Garreffa and Giovanni Vallati, at 11:06 of the high-scoring opening frame.
Shots on goal through the first 20 minutes were 18-12, Sault Ste. Marie.
The second period was scoreless, but still proved to have a profound impact on the game as the Greyhounds were whistled for back-to-back minors, giving the Rangers a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:25 with just 13.1 seconds remaining in the middle stanza.
After the buzzer rang at the end of 40 minutes, the Soo took yet another two-minute minor, and the Rangers would capitalize.
Just 24 seconds into the third period Garreffa cut the Greyhounds lead to 3-2, his 11th of the season, from Mascherin and Sherwood.
The penalty at the end of the second period meant the Rangers returned to a 5-on-3 man advantage for another 1:24. Sherwood tied the game, 3-3, at the 1:25 mark, his 29th of the season, assisted by Mascherin and Garreffa.
The Rangers continued to press, earning chance after chance to grasp their first lead of the night, but to no avail. Instead, it was Katchouk with his second goal of the game who restored the lead for the visitors, his 41st of the season from Sambrook and Noah Carroll at 11:25 to make it a 4-3 final.
Shots on goal after 40 minutes of play favoured the Soo, 34-22, and 43-34 at end of game.
The Rangers were 2-for-4 on the power play, while the Greyhounds were 0-for-3 with the man advantage along with a shorthanded marker.
Keeghan Howdeshell (SSM) (3), Adam Mascherin (KIT) (2), and Boris Katchouk (SSM) (1) were selected as the Three Stars of the Game.
Logan Stanley, Adam Mascherin, and Connor Hall each wore an “A” and skated as alternates to Rangers’ captain Connor Bunnaman.
The Rangers welcome the Saginaw Spirit to town on Sunday, March 11 at 2pm before they head on the road for midweek games against the Guelph Storm on Tuesday, March 13 at 7pm and Wednesday, March 14 vs. the Sarnia Sting at 7:05pm.
Kitchener’s final home game doubles as their last regular season game, as they host the Guelph Storm on Friday, March 16 at 7:30pm for Fan Appreciation Night.
Regular season tickets to all Kitchener Rangers home games are $23.00 each for adults, $19.00 for children 12 and under including HST, and are available in person or by calling the Activa Box Office at The Aud, from Centre in the Square (519) 578-1570 -or- 1-800-265-8977, or by purchasing online.
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