Special teams and costly mental errors were the downfall of the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday afternoon, as they dropped a 6-3 decision to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in front of 4,219 fans at the Essar Centre.
The loss snaps a four game win streak for the Rangers (34-9-4-0), and also ends a two game skid for the Greyhounds (21-20-5-1).
Luke Richardson got the nod in goal for Kitchener to finish off a busy weekend of three games in two and a half days for the Rangers. He made 28 saves on 33 shots in a losing effort, and saw his record dip to 2-3-1-0 on the season.
Brandon Halverson (13-12-2-0) stopped 25 of 28 shots he faced to earn the win in goal for the Greyhounds.
Gabe Guertler gave the Greyhounds a 1-0 lead on the power play at 9:32 of the first period, assisted by Blake Speers and Gustav Bouramman. Connor Bunnaman made it a 1-1 game with 2:45 to play in the period on a pretty goal from near the bottom of the circle which somehow found a narrow space between the shoulder of Halverson and the crossbar, assisted by Mason Kohn.
Nick Magyar’s seventh goal of the season gave the Rangers their lone lead of the afternoon, scoring just 3:28 into the second period from Gustaf Franzen.
Zachary Senyshyn scored his 30th goal of the campaign to tie the game 2-2, unassisted, at 10:24 then Boris Katchouk gave the Greyhounds a 3-2 lead from Medric Mercier and Hayden Verbeek at 17:39 to close out the second period scoring.
Verbeek’s shorthanded marker at 7:53 of the third period would prove to be the eventual game winner, as he capitalized on a Rangers turnover and beat Richardson on a breakaway attempt, unassisted, to put Sault Ste. Marie up 4-2. Just 3:42 later Jack Kopacka made it a 5-2 game from Tim Gettinger and Guertler on the power play at 11:35.
David Miller, the former Greyhound, tallied a power play marker of his own to cut the Sault’s lead to 5-3 from Kohn and Dylan Di Perna at 17:38, but the Greyhounds would respond with an empty net goal by Katchouk at 19:19 to solidify the 6-3 win.
The Greyhounds would go 3-for-6 on the power play, while the Rangers finished 1-for-4.
“I just kind of closed my eyes and shot it,” said Bunnaman of his impressive first period goal.
“Mason and I have good chemistry. He found me out there and I just shot the puck.”
When asked about his thoughts on how the team performed, he acknowledged he and his teammates made some errors that would prove costly.
“We were obviously tired at the end a busy weekend, but we’re not going to make excuses. We made a lot of errors that we shouldn’t have. It’s a loss we could have avoided, but we didn’t.”
Kohn was succinct in his post-game comments. “We’re a hardworking group, but today we just let it slip. We’ll get them next time.”
Rangers head coach Mike Van Ryn acknowledged his team’s mental lapses at times, but was happy with the overall effort they showed at the end of the busy weekend.
“We made a lot of mental mistakes today. As a coaching staff, we tried to tell them to avoid playing a skilled game, it was more about chipping away and getting pucks deep. Our minds just weren’t quite sharp this afternoon.
“We knew it was going to be tough today after the way the schedule was this weekend, but I thought the guys worked hard. I don’t like to make excuses, but those games [at the end of a three in three, with travel] are hard to play in.”
Gettinger (3), Verbeek (2) and Katchouk (1) were chosen as the Three Stars of the Game.
Gustaf Franzen, Frank Hora and Brandon Robinson each wore ‘A’s and skated as alternates to captain Ryan MacInnis.
The Rangers return to action, once again on the road, on Wednesday, February 3rd when they take on the Sarnia Sting at 7:05pm. They return home to the Aud when they host the Niagara IceDogs on Friday, February 5th for a 7:30pm start. The game will be nationally broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet for CHL Friday Night Hockey.
Tickets for the Rangers next home game, or any other future Rangers home games are available online at kitchenerrangers.com, by calling Centre in the Square, or through The Aud Box Office.