For the first time since Jay McKee’s firing, the Kitchener Rangers returned home on Friday as they played host to the Owen Sound Attack, their third time doing so at The Aud this season. Last these two teams met, it was back on Friday November 1st where Aidan Dudas, who captains the Attack, led his team past the Rangers 5-2.
Prior to Thursday’s game against Jamie Drysdale and the Erie Otters, Kitchener goaltender and NHL draftee Jacob Ingham hit the ice for the time dating back to his injury. As a result, Ingham did not play during the yearly annual CIBC Canada Russia Series.
For Mike McKenzie, the team’s general manager, it was his second game as the team’s head coach after the Rangers got back in the win column on Thursday with a 5-4 victory at Erie Insurance Arena.
Starting for the Rangers on Friday was Lucas Pfeil between the pipes, meanwhile, taking on Mack Guzda who would oppose the 19-year-old for the Owen Sound Attack.
As the game got underway, the Kitchener Rangers would win the draw, taking the puck early on up the ice and invading the Owen Sound zone early on. However, this would see the Attack quickly convert it before the game’s first whistle a moment later. From the Rangers left-side dot, it would be Kitchener on the draw once again, this time along the blue line, passing it around before losing possession.
With the puck finding its way back to the Owen Sound net on a tripping call, the Kitchener Rangers would be handed the power play, their first of the night and would pounce on the chance. 20 seconds later, Jonathan Yantsis would find the puck and send it up to Riley Damiani. Damiani would be quick to unload to Liam Howel who would net the puck in. This would give the cxentreman his seventh goal of the regular season.
As the game resumed from the centre ice dot, the Kitchener Rangers would remain in the zone as Justin MacPherson secured the puck in the Rangers zone before once again losing it to the Owen Sound Attack. Back in the opposing zone, another Kitchener Rangers shot would be taken, but wide and high of the Owen Sound net which would find Guzda between the crease.
Invading the Rangers zone four minutes into the opening period, Carter Robinson, from the blue line, would slap a shot to the Rangers net, but unable to find Pfeil through a collection of traffic, redirecting it and stopping play. Back from the Own Sound zone, the Rangers, up along the boards, would send the puck to the Owen Sound blue line to set up a short, but go wide and miss.
After a short lived opportunity for the Attack to turn things around, the Rangers, making the most of their chances, would take another rush up the ice before being whistled down just six minutes in. A scuffle would then break out behind Mack Guzda and the Owen Sound net as the shot chances were not short lived with the Rangers fighting to double their lead.
Back up along the boards in the Kitchener zone behind Pfeil and the net, another brief scuffle would take place for the puck, but broken up before a stoppage of play which would see the first bench charge take effect for the Kitchener Rangers.
Looking to remain productive, the Kitchener Rangers, now in their zone, would be up against Aidan Dudas, the Owen Sound captain, who would send the puck behind him to Sergey Popev. He would then shoot on Pfeil, but once again going wide of the net.
With plenty of energy, the Attack would remain steady, keeping the Rangers on their toes early on, but Lucas Pfeil not letting the puck by him, this keeping the home team ahead 1-0. Mike Petizian, now along the boards, would pick up the puck from behind Owen Sound’s net, but unable to find a hole to pass through which would allow the Attack to convert on the play.
As the Rangers briefly cleared their own net, this would find the hometown Rangers slightly altered as they managed to keep the puck, circulating in their own zone, off of the sticks of the opposing Attack. This would put Kitchener on the power play, their second of the game on a high-sticking call.
Pfeil, returning to the net, would take the puck from behind the net as Riley Damiani would collect it from in front and send it back up for an open chance, but going wide to the boards past Guzda. Reid Valade, at the Owen Sound crease, would then find himself well positioned amongst traffic, but miss a pair of shots openly handed to him, going wide on the first opportunity and fanning on the second one.
From the centre ice dot after another quick stoppage of play, Isaac Langdon would take the draw, but with Kitchener coming out on the losing end. This allowed the Attack back in the Rangers zone before being converted back into Owen Sound’s end. Behind the Kitchener net, Justin MacPherson would send it to Declan MacDonnell who would take a chance, passing it up the ice, but stopped through traffic, not finding Kitchener sticks.
In a battle for the puck in front of Guzda, Aidan Dudas would drive it up, but the Rangers converting as Michael Vukojevic would finds it whole looking for a chance to poke it by to double the lead. Battling along the boards now in the Kitchener Rangers zone, Greg Meireles would poke it back into play and drive it up before losing possession. After a line change, the Attack would drive it back, but Kitchener converting with plenty of open ice. This would find Valade, in the Owen Sound zone, battling for the puck up along the boards.
From centre ice, Riley Damiani would be the next one looking for the goal, but after being poked out and behind the net, he would retrieve it and take a shot on the Attack net, but saved by Guzda. In a traffic jam out front of the net, it wouldn’t stop Kitchener, collecting many shots early as Meireles would send the puck down to Donovan Sebrango who would take a shot, but stopped and saved, this halting play with just under two minutes to go.
With a minute left to play in the first frame, Sebrango would battle for the puck nearby the benches, however, would lose it at the centre ice red line to Kaleb Pearson who would convert it out of their zone. This would allow Owen Sound their first solid chance against Pfeil and Kitchener, but with the 6’2 backstop holding his ground, he’d dive for the sprawling save, this bringing the game’s first frame to a close. After the first twenty minutes of play, the Rangers would lead Owen Sound 1-0.
Once the second period commenced, the Kitchener Rangers would be on the draw early as Reid Valade sent the puck down the ice with an open shot early on the Attack net protected by Guzda. After a diving attempt to stop it, Owen Sound would jump on a chance, the Rangers converting it and making Guzda work with another shot taken on net, but stopped.
Now from along the boards, Greg Meireles would poke it behind him, however, this would find the sticks of the Attack would send it up ice, but unable to drive it up the zone to Lucas Pfeil, once again holding steady. After the puck was dislodged at centre ice for the Rangers to pick up another chance, a scuffle would take place in the Rangers zone, this causing a whistle and once again stopping play to begin the second frame.
Now just three minutes in, Mike Petezian would find the puck in Owen Sound’s zone, sending it down towards Declan McDonell who would pass it alongside him to Isaac Langdon who would bank it past Guzda. Langdon’s second goal of the season would give the Rangers a 2-0 lead on the Attack. It would also be his first goal dating back to September 27th.
As the play resumed at centre ice, it would find the Rangers production continuing, however, not before Dudas and Owen Sound who would cause another battle up along the boards while poking the puck out. With a shot on Kitchener’s net, Pfiel would make the save, this once again stopping play midway through. From behind the Owen Sound net, Sebrango would find himself battling for the puck, but losing possession as Owen Sound retrieved it, sending it back down the ice to their own zone. This would cause another stoppage just over seven minutes into the period.
Kitchener, once again along the boards, would keep busy around Guzda, but unable to find a path to the crease, this finding Brady Lyle snagging it away at the boards. He would then send it up to Daylon Groux at the Rangers blue line, but losing possession as the Rangers, not holding back, would make for a contest in the Owen Sound zone.
As the Attack sent the puck back upon, it would find Matthew Philip in front of Pfeil fighting for the puck, keeping the Rangers on their toes, but unable to poke it out. With the play now converted by Kitchener, the two sides would square off from the Attack’s right-side dot before a whistle was called at centre ice.
Sebrango, now looking for more, would drive the puck down to the Owen Sound zone, but stopped along the way down to the net before another quick stoppage was called. In a one-on-four battle at the boards, Meireles would make his way out through traffic while skating with the puck to turn it around, but stopped in the process heading back to the Rangers zone.
After a mother battle at the boards, Jonathan Yantsis, in front of the benches, would fall at centre ice while sending the puck down the ice to Guzda, but not close enough. Once Kitchener turned it around, Sebrango would lose the puck to Aidan Dudas who would send it across the ice, causing a foot race before being stopped with eight minutes left to play.
From the centre ice red line, the Rangers would lose the draw to the Attack, but in the opposing zone, Reid Valade would race down while seeking a goal chance at the net in front Guzda holding down the fort for Owen Sound.
With 7:29 on the clock, the Kitchener Rangers would be given a power play, this sending Matthew Philip, at 12:31, to the penalty box for a delay of game call. With the puck sent back ups the ice, Lucas Pfeil would field the puck, sending it down the ice where the Rangers were invading with a a pair of chances, taken and stopped by Mack Guzda in the net for the Attack.
In the dying seconds with the puck now back in their own zoner, Kitchener would quickly send the puck back down before Ville Ottavainen took a shot on the opposing goaltender, but saved and stopped, the shot halting the play. Now with five minutes to go, Sebrango would race the puck down, but being shovelled right into the boards while releasing the puck behind the net. This would allow Owen Sound to retrieve the puck and convert on the play.
After another whistle call with four to play, the Rangers, off the draw, would come out swinging, putting up a battle behind the net in their own zone, this finding Yantsis sending the puck across the zone before taking it back, however, unable to find a shooting path to put it by Guzda. With 3:07 left, the play would be halted in the Owen Sound zone. On a draw now from the left-side dot, the Rangers would win and send the puck back up before Meireles gained possession to send the puck down, Kitchener passing it around while seeking more chances to drive it down to extend their 2-0 lead.
With just under two to play, MacPherson would take the puck down from Pfeil, sending it away for a shot on the Attack, but a weakened opportunity stopping play for the Rangers. With 1:30 to play, the two sides would take the draw from centre ice, this seeing Owen Sounds win the face off, finding Aidan Dudas who would sent it up the ice before another brief whistle.
With a fighting chance in the final minute, Kaleb Pearson would battle Greg Meireles to take the puck out and down the ice, but unable to do so, the scuffle stopping play. This would allow for a final face-off before the game’s second frame concluded.
With a quick pair of chances to end things, backstop Mack Guzda would face a pair of Rangers shots, but the first going wide and back to the boards before stopping the second, this wrapping the game’s middle frame. At the end of 40 minutes, Kitchener would maintain a 2-0 lead while ahead in shots, up by three, 11-8.
With the third and final period now underway at The Aud in Kitchener, the Attack would come off the draw firing with a pair of hits to the boards early on while limiting the Rangers of possession while defending Owen Sound in their own zone. After a shot was taken on Pfeil, he would save the puck, stopping play on a whistle. After another brief whistle to follow, Ville Ottavainen would send the puck up the ice, this finding Yantsis and Damiani battling along the boards behind Mack Guzda and the Owen Sound net.
Deni Goure would then find himself in a scuffle at the boards with the Rangers, this finding Kitchener being handed the penalty kill just 2:30 into the game’s final frame. Justin McPherson would be sent to the penalty box, being called for interference resulting from the play.
Andrew Perrott, from the Rangers blue line, would then take a shot on Lucas Pfeil, but not hard enough as it stopped and saved before being sent back up the ice to the Rangers offence. With a whistle called four minutes in, the play would be halted for a brief stop in play. After another battle for the puck and the penalty kill still intact, the Owen Sound Attack would win the face-off from centre ice and quickly taking it into the Rangers zone rushing up to Pfeil. With a sprawling save between the pipes, this would find the Attack evacuating the zone as Kitchener was quick to convert on the play.
From the right-side dot in the Owen Sound zone, Yantsis would take the face-off for the Rangers, but Kitchener once again losing to the Attack before Ryan Stepien retrieved it and took a shot on the Owen Sound net, but stopped and saved by goaltender Mack Guzda before pushing it back into play. Back in the Owen Sound zone, the puck would make its away along the boards before being tapped down the ice to the Rangers, however, resulting in a whistle which again would stop the play.
From the Owen Sound blue line, Brady Lyle would rush down the ice with the puck before losing possession to Kitchener’s Mike Petzian who would convert the puck and turn it around for the Rangers, However, after missing the net guarded by Guzda, a battle would be put up along the benches, the Attack winning the scuffle and taking it back to their own zone.
As the Rangers interfered for a chance of their own to get things going again, Damiani would send the puck to the Rangers zone before exiting the ice for a quick bench swap which would draw another whistle, stopping play. Kitchener, from their own zone, would send the puck back to Pfeil at the net before rushing up and the puck finding Meireles who would come just short of a shot on Guzda.
With 10:43 remaining, the Owen Sound Attack would find themselves dominating as Nolan Seed sent the puck down from the boards to Matthew Philip who would finds himself in a foot race before another stop in play. After another quick shot by Kitchener, the play would be whistled down and stopped again. Seed, now from the boards, would send the puck around the Rangers zone, however, a save from Lucas Pfeil would stop the play with 9:02 left to play.
At this point in the game, the puck would be dropped from the Rangers right-side dot, this finding the Attack now pouncing on the puck to get something going on the scoreboard late in the game. At the eight-minute mark, Sergey Popov would deflect a shot on Pfeil, but stopped and saved, once again halting play.
From centre ice, Igor Chibrikov would send the puck to the Rangers zone, this finding Ville ottavainen who would send the puck up, but just short of Guzda on an attempt up the ice. Owen Sound, not letting up, would then cause a fight with the Rangers behind Lucas Pfeil up along the boards before causing another back in their own zone ahead of the net.
Once again from the right-side dot, Ottavainen would take the face-off, but losing the draw with the puck finding Nolan Seed along the boards before sending it across the zone. The Attack would then lose possession to Mike Petzian and the Rangers would convert on the play. From centre ice, as they team had successfully done all night, Owen Sound would take the win on the face-off, but not before another whistle which would be called with 5:50 left in the game. Goure would then find a foot race with Reid Valade from along the boards, but Kitchener unable to gain possession, once again coming short of the Attack.
With 4:08 left to be played, Isaac Langdon would find a battle up the ice with Owen Sound, this coming a moment after a close call for the Attack that caused a review from the refs, stopping play. As Kitchener held the 2-0 lead, the it would find Chibrakov once again active offensively as a battle would bet up behind Guzda as the Rangers seeked a potential wraparound play to further their lead. Now with 2:08 on the clock and Lucas Pfeil pulled for the extra attacker, another Owen Sound opportunity would be whistled down with just under two minutes left to play.
Yantsis would then find himself standing alone in the Owen Sound zone, taking a shot from in front of the crease, but Guzda stopping it and halting the play. With the Owen Sound backstop now gone with 1:08 on the clock at The Aud, it would allow Kitchener to seal the deal as the Rangers would go up ahead 3-0. It would be courtesy of Riley Damiani who would score on the empty net. For Damiani, at 18:52, it was his 10th of the regular season with assists off the sticks of Reid Valade and Swedish defensemen Axel Bergkvist.
In the game’s final minute of play, Michael Vukojevic would take the play from the net, sending it up to the Owen Sound zone where Guzda would field it for one last opportunity. As the final seconds counted down, tensions at the benches would start to rise, this finding players both in and out putting up a fight with 06.3 left to play. After an extended stoppage of play, one last face-off would be drawn at centre ice as the puck made its way over to Lucas Pfeil at the Kitchener net.
That would then sound the siren as the Rangers extended their win streak, walking away with the 3-0 victory on Friday night at The Auditorium. After the game, the three stars were announced, all being named in Kitchener’s favour as Declan McDonell was named the third star with the primary assist on the game’s second goal. Riley Damiani was also recognized, being named the game’s second star as he assisted on the game’s first goal while netting his own for insurance in the third. Being named first star of the night was backup goaltender Lucas Pfeil who not only made 24 saves, but earned his first career OHL shutout.
After the game, The Puck Authority spoke with general manager and head coach Mike McKenzie who when asked about his team’s performance acknowledged the efforts his boys made when he said, “Yeah, I thought that was one of our better efforts the whole year. It was probably as close to a full sixty as we’ve played all year which was nice to see and got contributions from all lines, all players, so it was overall a good team effort.”
McKenzie also spoke about Jacob Ingham, the team’s starting backstop and when providing an update on his status, McKenzie said in regards to where he’s at, “Yeah, well, he started in Erie and so he’s feeling pretty good, so we gave him the night off being a back-to-back and he should be back ready to go on Sunday unless something pops up.”
Speaking of goaltending, with Lucas Pfiel’s first shutout on Friday, Mike McKenzie spoke of the goaltender’s promise on the ice and to the Rangers when he said, “Yeah, he was great. He held us in there, especially made a really big save at the end of the first period to keep it a 1-0 and he was great down the stretch in the third period when we really needed to lean on him, so it was great to see him get his first shutout.”
Mike McKenzie is replacing Jay McKee who was relieved of his duties on Monday and when asked about the expectations as to when a new coach could be named, the Rangers interim head coach said, “Right now, we’re just gonna take it a day at time, so I don’t think anything’s gonna happen right away, but we’ll see how the next couple weeks go.”
Lastly, McKenzie spoke about the challenging week that it was leading up this weekend and when discussing how the team has overcome that, producing a pair of wins, the general manager would close in saying, “Yeah, it’s been good so far, it’s been a weird week and it’s been a tough week, a lot of change, so we just told them work as hard as they could and they’ve done that so far and we’ve gotten rewarded with two wins, so it’s nice to see.”
Following their 3-0 victory on Friday, the Kitchener Rangers are back home on Sunday as they play host to the defending league champions with puck drop scheduled for 2:00pmET. The game can be seen on Rogers TV and OHL Live, meanwhile, it can be heard on 570News AM.