Jeremy Bracco tallied a four point night, and seven different Kitchener Rangers were goal scorers as the visitors came away with a convincing 7-2 victory over the host Flint Firebirds in front of 2,490 fans at the Dort Federal Event Center on Saturday night.
Bracco tallied a goal and three assists while Rangers captain Ryan MacInnis finished with a goal and a pair of assists, as the Blueshirts held comfortable leads of 3-1 and 7-1 after 20 and 40 minutes of play, respectively.
It was the third time this season the Rangers have produced seven goals in a game, and the third time it’s come on the road (Oct. 29 at Peterborough [7-2 W], and Jan. 16 at Saginaw [7-4 W]). The highest offensive output of the season for the Rangers was back at the Aud on October 12th when they handed the visiting Sudbury Wolves an 8-2 defeat.
Luke Opilka (27-9-3-2) earned the win in goal tonight for the Rangers (42-15-5-2), making 27 saves. Kyle Keyser (4-9-0-0) got the start in goal for the Firebirds (20-39-4-2) and took the loss, allowing six goals on 12 shots before being replaced by Brent Moran just past the midway point of the second period. Moran would surrender one goal on eleven shots he faced.
The Rangers opened the scoring after Bracco broke into the Firebirds zone and down the far side before feeding Brandon Robinson in front to make it 1-0 just 1:32 into the first period, with MacInnis picking up the second assist.
The Firebirds would tie the game shortly thereafter, as Matyas Kantner answered for Flint at 2:18, from Vili Saarijarvi and Zack Pittman.
The Rangers would continue to press, however, and regained the lead just 2:05 later as Darby Llewellyn tallied his 20th goal of the season, from Nick Magyar, at 4:23.
Bracco again threw a puck into the Flint slot towards his linemate MacInnis, but the puck would deflect off of a Flint defender to give Bracco credit for the Rangers third goal at 15:49. Kitchener would lead 3-1 after the first period of play, with Flint outshooting the Rangers 15-8 in the opening frame.
MacInnis batted in a bouncing puck at the right side of the net to increase his goal total to 38 on the season, putting the Rangers up 4-1, from Robinson and Bracco, at 3:51 of the second period.
Gustaf Franzen broke up a Firebirds play in the neutral zone and found Connor Bunnaman with a beautiful pass who made no mistake on the breakaway attempt to make it 5-1 at 9:55. Adam Mascherin would pick up the second assist.
David Miller made it 6-1 just 37 seconds later, from Jake Henderson and Connor Hall, which ended the night of Keyser.
At 15:46, with the Rangers on a 4-on-3 man advantage, Miles Liberati found the back of the net from Bracco and MacInnis to put the Blueshirts up 7-1 to round out the second period scoring.
Shots were 14-8 Kitchener in the second period and 23-22 Flint after two periods of play.
Samuel Duchesne recorded his first OHL goal for the Firebirds to make it 7-2 at 3:20 of the third period, from Kantner and Jacob Collins, for the lone goal of the third period.
Final shots were 31-30 in favour of the Firebirds.
The Rangers finished the night 1-for-8 on the power play, while the Firebirds were 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
The game also marked the return of Rangers forward Mason Kohn, who was dealt an eight-game suspension back on February 19th vs. the Oshawa Generals.
Brandon Robinson (3), Ryan MacInnis (2) and Jeremy Bracco (1) were chosen as the Three Stars of the Game.
Darby Llewellyn, Gustaf Franzen and Brandon Robinson each wore ‘A’s and skated as alternate captains to Rangers captain Ryan MacInnis.
The Rangers wrap up their three-game weekend tomorrow, Sunday, March 13th in Sault Ste. Marie for a 2:07pm matinee vs. the Greyhounds.
Tickets for the Rangers first two home games of the playoffs are on sale now. Get yours today by visiting KWTickets.ca, by calling Centre in the Square at (519) 578-1570 or 1-800-265-8977, or in person at The Aud Box Office.
Tickets are also still available for the Rangers final home game of the regular season, the Fan Appreciation Game, next Friday, March 18th vs. the Sarnia Sting at 7:30pm.