Luke Opilka earned his first Ontario Hockey League shutout and the Kitchener Rangers picked up their first win at the Sleeman Centre since March 28th, 2013 with a 2-0 win over the Guelph Storm on Sunday night.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Storm (1-7-1-0), while the Rangers came away with their fourth straight win and raised their record to 6-0-3-0 overall, and 4-0-1-0 on the road.
There were lots of positives over the course of the weekend for head coach Mike Van Ryn’s group, who went 3-0 on the 3-in-3 weekend, allowing just two goals to the Owen Sound Attack on Friday, one goal to the Colts in Barrie last night, and zero tonight.
Van Ryn cites hard work throughout the week and solid goaltending as some of the crucial keys to his team’s early success.
“I’m happy for my guys. I’m happy they’re getting rewarded.” Van Ryn said post-game with Mike Torchia on 570News. “They’re working hard every day in practice and they’re giving us good efforts in games. I’m glad to see them getting rewarded for their hard work.
“On top of that, our goaltending has been good. That’s been a big part of it. We’ve got two goalies that can play every night and it’s a great thing to have.”
Confidence is something the team seems to have no shortage of to start the season, as a number of players have reached milestone markers to start off the 2015-16 campaign – including Opilka – who was named the game’s second star while earning his first OHL shutout.
“Things become really easy when you know all the boys are out there playing for each other,” said Opilka. “To know I’ve got great ‘D’ in front of me allows me to focus on what I need to do, but also reassures me they’ve got my back if I mess up. We’ve got a great thing going on out there and we just want to keep it going.”
Keep it going is exactly what Adam Mascherin’s done since the start of the season, registering at least a point (7-6=13) in all nine of the Rangers games to start the season. But he’s not the only one who’s been contributing from Van Ryn’s crew, as evidenced by a five-point weekend (1-4) by Ryan MacInnis, who boasts nine points (2-7) to start the season.
After a scoreless first period which saw the Rangers outshoot the Storm 12-8 it was Brandon Robinson who opened the scoring at 8:08 of the second period. It was Robinson’s second goal in his second game of the season, with Mascherin and MacInnis picking up the assists.
Brian Brosnan gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead with his first goal as a member of the Rangers with just 2:55 remaining in the second, assisted by Gustaf Franzen, to send the game to the second intermission. It was another dominant period by Kitchener, who outshot Guelph 17-9 in the middle frame and 29-17 through 40 minutes.
The Storm pressed in the third outshooting the Rangers 15-8 in the final frame, but Opilka stood tall, finishing the night with 37 saves in the 2-0 victory. Justin Nichols took the loss for the Storm, allowing two goals on 32 shots.
The Storm were unsuccessful on five power play attempts, while the Rangers were 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
MacInnis, Brosnan and Frank Hora each wore ‘A’s and skated as assistant captains for the game.
Justin Nichols (3), Luke Opilka (2) and Brian Brosnan (1) were chosen as the Three Stars of the game.
The Rangers return to action on Thursday, October 22nd when they travel to Sarnia to take on the Sting at 7:05pm, then come home to The Aud next Friday, October 23rd when they host the Peterborough Petes at 7:30pm.
Tickets for the Rangers next home game are available online at kitchenerrangers.com, by calling Centre in the Square, or through The Aud Box Office.