Ryan MacInnis extended his point streak to 21 games, while Joseph Garreffa scored the first goal of his OHL career as the Kitchener Rangers used a balanced attack to defeat the Flint Firebirds 5-3 in front of 7,129 fans at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex on Sunday afternoon.
It marked just the third time this season the Rangers (32-8-4-0) played three games in three days, as they finished the weekend with four of a possible six points following a loss to Erie on home ice on Friday, and a road win in Owen Sound on Saturday. The Firebirds (14-26-3-2) have now seen their misfortune extend to 13-straight games (0-11-2-0) without a win, including regulation losses in seven straight games.
MacInnis would finish the afternoon with a pair of assists, giving him 35 points (13-22) over the streak. The 21-game span ties him for the league’s longest of the season previously set by London’s Mitch Marner.
Five different Rangers etched the scoresheet on the afternoon including Adam Mascherin (24), Gustaf Franzen (12), Dylan Di Perna (4), Nick McHugh (2), and of course, Garreffa with his first.
After the game it was a noticeably ecstatic Garreffa who spoke to 570 News.
“It feels really good,” he said, beaming. “I was dying to get it for so long. I started thinking to myself ‘Am I ever gonna score?’, but thank God it finally happened. It’s a great feeling.”
When asked about his transition from forward to defence with the Rangers short bodies on the back end, the rookie had a veteran’s take on the matter.
“I used to play defence when I was younger, so it’s not like I’ve never done it before, but it’s definitely different at the junior level. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that I’m moving my feel a lot more out there when I’m on the back end, so maybe that helped me actually get that first goal under my belt.”
It was the 21st win of the season for Rangers goaltender Luke Opilka (21-5-2-0), who stopped 29 of 32 shots he faced.
Brent Moran was dealt the loss in goal for the Firebirds, allowing four goals on 23 shots as his record slipped to 9-18-3-0.
The Rangers opened the scoring for the 34th time in 43 games this season, coming by way of Garreffa’s first in what was his 27th OHL game, at 2:54 of the first period from David Miller.
The Firebirds would respond quickly, however, as Cullen Mercer would make it a 1-1 game just 22 seconds later from Jacob Collins and Luke Kirwan at 3:18.
Mascherin gave the Rangers back the lead at 11:02, scoring his 24th of the season. Mason Kohn picked up the lone assist on the goal.
With the Rangers on the power play and the first period winding down, it was Jeremy Bracco who waited patiently before finding Franzen in the slot for his 12th goal of the season at 18:14 with MacInnis picking up the second assist on the goal. The power play goal sees another $100 donation made to Clarky’s Kids on behalf of Heffner Toyota.
After one period of play the Rangers held a 3-1 lead and held a 17-12 shot advantage over the Firebirds.
Di Perna put the Rangers up 4-1 just 26 seconds into the second period in his 200th career regular season OHL game, assisted by MacInnis and Bracco. The fourth Rangers goal would signal a change in goal for the Firebirds, as Moran allowed four goals on the opening 18 shots he faced. He was replaced by Matthew Menna, who would surrender McHugh’s second goal of the season, from Miles Liberati and Di Perna at 10:10 of the middle frame.
Nearing the end of the second period the Firebirds would show some life, scoring twice just 47 seconds apart. Will Bitten from Nicholas Caamano and Alex Di Carlo at 17:08 cut the Rangers lead to three, then Dane Johnstone responded with his sixth of the year, assisted by Vili Saarijärvi and Francesco Vilardi at 17:55 to make it a 5-3 game. Shots were once again 17-12 in favour of the Rangers in the period, for a two-period combined total of 34-24.
Flint opted to go back to Moran to start the third, but the score would remain unchanged through the final 20 minutes. The Firebirds would outshoot the Rangers 8-5 in the third period, with final shots 39-32 Kitchener after 60 minutes.
The Rangers would finish the afternoon going 1-for-4 on the power play, while Flint was 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
Di Perna (3), Bitten (2) and Bracco (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 are back in action next Friday when they host the Windsor Spitfires on January 29th at 7:30pm for Don Cameron Potato Night. Fans are encouraged to bring with them to the game a sack of potatoes to support the House of Friendship. Monetary donations will also be accepted and appreciated.
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.