The clutch performances from Brandon Robinson just keep on coming.
The 20-year-old Pickering native scored with just 1:26 remaining in regulation to give the Kitchener Rangers a 2-1 win over the Windsor Spitfires in Game 3 of their best-of-seven Western Conference quarterfinal series in front of 3,218 fans at the WFCU Centre on Monday night.
The Rangers now lead the series 3-0 with a chance to complete a sweep of the Spitfires on Wednesday night at the WFCU Centre at 7:05pm.
It was the fifth goal and seventh point in three playoff games for Robinson, who sits tied for first in goals and second in points in the league through the playoffs.
Ryan MacInnis picked up the primary assist on both goals for the Rangers, who led 1-0 after one and maintained that lead until Windsor tied the game on the power play at 9:25 of the third period.
Although he wasn’t credited with an assist, Frank Hora played an imperative part in setting up the game winning goal with a heads-up pass from the Rangers end, which allowed the Blueshirts to gain the zone and pot the deciding marker.
Robinson was quick to credit his linemates when asked by TVCogeco post-game on the reason behind his postseason success.
“I’ve just been trying to play my game,” said the winger. “Playing with two skilled guys like MacInnis and Bracco helps. I’m just trying to do my part and help the team win.
“The first two games weren’t our style, in terms of giving up that many goals. It was more low scoring tonight, more about keeping the goals out and getting timely ones ourselves.
“We can’t change much going into Game 4,” he added. “We’re excited about the chance to wrap it up, but we need to keep doing our best to end it on Wednesday, and we hope that’s what we do.”
Rangers head coach Mike Van Ryn was complimentary of the brunt of what he saw from his team tonight, but added there are things they could also improve on to give themselves their best chance to close out the series in Game 4. He gave credit to his starter, Dawson Carty, who made 26 of 27 saves en route to his third OHL playoff win.
“Carty played very well for us tonight, and our big guys played well for us tonight, too.
“[Robinson] was huge again for us, and [MacInnis] and [Jeremy] Bracco gave us some real good efforts.
“Anytime you can win coming into a Game 3 in the other team’s building is a great thing. For them, that was their pushback game, they wanted to get back into this series so to get the timely scoring that we did tonight, that was a big goal for us.
“It’s fun to be around as a coach and see how much they want to play for each other right now.”
The Spitfires will see the return of forward Brendan Lemieux in Game 4, after he served the last of his two-game suspension for slewfooting Hora in Game 1. Van Ryn says his team will prepare accordingly for his return, but it won’t change their overall game plan.
“We’ve just gotta keep it going and doing the right things next game, They’re making a big deal about getting Lemieux back, but you know what, we’ve got two guys [Brian Brosnan and Dmitrii Sergeev] sitting out too.
“If we keep doing the right things we’re doing, we’re gonna be tough to beat. We’re looking forward to Game 4.”
It took 19:25 before the first goal of the game would come, and it would come on the stick of Bracco, his first of the postseason. MacInnis broke into the Windsor zone and drove to the net with Bracco trailing. With DiPietro attempting to make the initial save, Bracco tapped the puck in from behind the Windsor goaltender to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Darby Llewellyn picked up the second assist.
Shots were 8-7 in favour of the Rangers after the first period of play.
With about four minutes left in the second period the Spitfires thought they had tied the game, as Hayden McCool tried to lift the puck up over the shoulder of Carty during a goal-mouth scramble, but the play was whistled dead and upon review it was confirmed no goal after an impressive sprawling save by Carty.
Shots were 12-12 during the middle frame and 20-19 Kitchener through 40 minutes.
The Rangers held their 1-0 lead near the midway point of the third period, but with Robinson called for a slashing minor, the Spitfires capitalized. Connor Chatham from behind the goal line fed Aaron Luchuk in the slot, who buried a one-timer to square the game 1-1 at 9:25, with Cristiano DiGiacinto picking up the second assist.
Robinson’s game winner was made possible by a heads up play by Hora, feeding Bracco deep in the neutral zone from the top of the left circle in the Rangers end, shoveling the puck off to MacInnis who found Robinson to seal the victory at 18:34.
Final shots were 30-27 Kitchener, including 10-8 Rangers in the third period.
Michael DiPiero got his first career postseason start and took the loss, allowing two goals on 30 shots,
The Rangers finished the night 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Spitfires were 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
Brandon Robinson (3), Michael DiPietro (2) and Ryan MacInnis (1) were chosen as the Three Stars of the Game.
Frank Hora, Gustaf Franzen and Brandon Robinson each wore ‘A’s and skated as alternate captains to Rangers captain Ryan MacInnis.
The Rangers will look to wrap up the series when Game 4 goes on Wednesday, March 30th for a 7:05pm start at the WFCU Centre.
For tickets to Rangers home games, call Centre in the Square at (519) 578-1570 or 1-800-265-8977, visit the Aud Box Office, or go to kitchenerrangers.com.
(4) Kitchener Rangers vs. (5) Windsor Spitfires
Best-of-7 Quarter-Final Series
Kitchener leads 3-0
Game 1 – Thursday, March 24th – Kitchener 6; Windsor 5 OT
Game 2 – Saturday, March 26th – Kitchener 6; Windsor 4
Game 3 – Monday, March 28th – Kitchener 2; Windsor 1
Game 4 – Wednesday, March 30th, 7:05pm at Windsor
*Game 5 – Friday, April 1st, 7:30pm at Kitchener
*Game 6 – Sunday, April 3rd, 2pm at Windsor
*Game 7 – Tuesday, April 5th, 7pm at Kitchener