Luke Opilka made 20 saves and earned his second Ontario Hockey League shutout as the Kitchener Rangers defeated the visiting Windsor Spitfires 2-0 in front of 7,232 fans during Don Cameron Potato Night at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Complex on Friday.
It took 37:41 of game action before the Rangers (33-8-4-0) would capture the game’s opening goal, coming by way of Jeremy Bracco’s 15th of the season. Kitchener would dominate the shot clock, outshooting the Spitfires (29-12-5-0) by a 39-20 margin.
The game marked the first win in three tries for the Rangers over the Spitfires, and the first time in their season series that the game would not go to overtime. Their fourth and final meeting of the regular season is scheduled for March 17th at the WFCU Centre at 7:05pm.
Rangers head coach Mike Van Ryn was pleased with his team’s effort and how they executed multiple elements of their game that they’d been working on in practice over the past week.
“We generated a lot of chances,” said Van Ryn. “Overall, I thought we played a good team game. I’m happy with the effort our players gave over 60 minutes.
“I thought our PK was much improved, and that was something we’d been working on, so that was nice to see.”
The Rangers would blank the Spitfires in their three chances with the man advantage, but also couldn’t muster a power play goal of their own, going 0-for-4.
Opilka’s shutout is his second of the season and first on home ice at the Aud. His first career OHL shutout came back on October 18th at the Sleeman Centre versus the Guelph Storm. Opilka’s record improves to 22-5-2-0 with the win.
Spitfires goaltender Michael DiPietro (14-4-1-0) was impressive despite suffering the loss, stopping 37 of 38 shots he faced.
Adam Mascherin picked up the lone assist on the Bracco goal that came at 17:41 of the second period to give the Rangers the lead. Shots were 8-6 in favour of the Rangers in the first period, and 25-12 after 40 minutes.
With DiPietro pulled in favour of an extra attacker for the Spitfires late in the third period, Connor Bunnaman scored from the other side of the red line into the empty net to make it a 2-0 game, with assists going to Darby Llewellyn and Miles Liberati.
Opilka (3), DiPietro (2) and Bracco (1) were chosen as the Three Stars of the Game.
Potatoes and cash donations were collected tonight for Don Cameron Potato Night to kick off the 21st February Potato Blitz, and the night was a resounding success. Fans brought over 7,000lbs of potatoes to the Aud and donated $7,536 in cash contributions – a new record for Don Cameron Potato Night.
If you attended the game and missed your opportunity to donate, or simply couldn’t make it out for Potato Night, you can still text the word SHARE to 41010 to make a $5 contribution to assist the House of Friendship in helping those in need in our community.
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 tomorrow night when they take on the Spirit in Saginaw for a 7:05pm start. They finish the weekend in Sault Ste. Marie when they face the Greyhounds at 2:07pm.
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.