After beating Owen Sound on Friday, the Kitchener Rangers returned to play on Sunday as they played host to Cam Hillis and Nico Daws along with the remainder of the defending league champions.
Going into the afternoon meeting, the Rangers announced earlier on in the day that both Graham Dickerson and Ville Ottavainen would not be playing, marked as healthy scratches. Additionally, the team announced that Jacob Ingham would get the start, this coming after the backstop was activated for Thursday’s game against the Erie Otters.
The Rangers entered Sunday’s matinee looking to extend their win streak to three games, this coming after the change behind the bench which led to wins against Erie and Owen Sound.
As the game got underway on a snowy day at The Aud in Kitchener, the Rangers would win on the opening face-off with Greg Meireles taking on Cam Hillis. However, after the game’s first whistle was called just twenty seconds into the frame, another face-off would ensue with Riley Damiani squaring off against Danny Zhilkin. This would see the Rangers jump on the puck for their first full rush, but 12 seconds later, the play would be stopped with another face-off in the Guelph Storm’s favour.
Getting his second start back on Sunday, Jacob Ingham would be tested early with a pair of shots from the opposition before the play was halted just three minutes in. This would see a face-off in the Kitchener Rangers zone as Isaac Langdon won win off the draw, though a second would be needed just over a minute later back in their own zone. This time, it was Jonathan Yantsis squaring off against Jacob Maillet.
At the 4:19 mark of the game’s opening frame against Guelph, Yantsis would win the draw and send the puck back to Riley Damiani who then drove it up the ice towards Nico Daws who would retrieve it and send it back into play.
At the 13:55 mark of the opening frame in Kitchener, the Rangers would be handed the power play, their second of the game just six minutes in. This would follow a pair of chances on Nico Daws while the defending champions are called for hooking which would give the Rangers a one-man advantage.
With Kitchener dominating, this would see Greg Meireles would take a shot from the boards, just off the cross bar and back into play before being whistled down back in the Rangers zone.
As Declan McDonnell rushed up the ice, he would find a chance of his own to open the scoring, taking the puck up to the Guelph Storm crease, but fanning on the shot amongst a pile of traffic. A whistle would then bring the play to another quick stop two minutes later.
Up along the boards in the Kitchener zone, it would be Pavel Gogolev putting up a fight with the Rangers defence and making them work as he exited the zone to find an open stick on Guelph’s end with the puck.
From centre ice, it would be Cooper Walker looking to get things going for the Storm, however, unable too do so as Ryan Stepien would retrieve possession and take it up the ice. Thus would cause a rush once again up to Nico Daws, but the puck going wide and missing the net and very quickly going back into play.
With the score still knotted scoreless, Jonathan Yantsis would then take a shot of his own, but once again missing going wide on the net. This would bring the play a halt with 9:08 left to play in the frame.
From the blue line as the game resumed, Justin MacPherson would unload from the blue line, looking to get the puck off of his stick, going wide of the net to buy the Rangers some extra time in the zone to get something going.
Gogolev, looking for more, would then drive the puck back the other way, taking a shot on Jacob Ingham, but going wide as the puck missed the net and made its way around the boards and back into possession of the Ran gets in their own end.
Wirth the pressure now mounting on both ends, the Rangers, looking to open the scoring, would drive the puck back the other way, but losing the puck to the battling Guelph Storm who would be quick to turn it out of their zone, though the Rangers wouldn’t allow it for long.
After a scuffle behind the Storm net as Jesse Fishman battled for the puck, the play would be whistled down with 5:21 remaining in the game’s first frame. Up along the boards in the period’s final minutes, the Rangers would convert the play out of their zone as Donovan Sebrango then brought it back it to by his Kitchener team some extra time.
Francesco Pinelli would then pick it up from centre ice where both teams briefly met before taking the puck down the Rangers end before a fight for possession sent it back the other way along the boards in the Storm zone.
Eric Uba would then take a shot from the blue line, but losing power as the Rangers interfered. After a close one on Nico Daws, the play would be whistled down before a face-off from Guelph’s right-side dot.
With 1:24 on the clock as a foot race ensued before the benches, Reid Valade would retrieve the puck and make no mistake with 1:24 left, netting his eighth goal of the season, an unassisted goal at 18:36.
In the game’s final minute of play, the puck would be drawn from Kitchener’s zone, though it would be the Storm picking up on the face-off with one last chance coming from Daniil Chayka. The Guelph defensemen would miss the net as Lucas Pfiel would save it, stopping play. After one last brief bout of play, the period would conclude with Kitchener leading the Storm 1-0. Shots would be in favour of Kitchener, leading the Storm, by one, 8-7.
As the second period commenced, Greg Meireles would take the face-off, but Guelph winning it and taking it back into their zone, though Donovan Sebrango would quickly retrieve it. After a shot from the blue line on Nico Daws, the first stoppage of play of the second frame would be called.
After facing off from the the right-side dot, another whistle would be called which would enforce a quick bench change for both sides. With the puck now being drawn from the left-side dot, another stoppage of play would be called. This would enforce another draw with the Guelph Storm winning it to resume play at The Aud. While invading the Storm zone, it would be Damiani from the boards sniping on Daws with Jonathan Yantsis in front of the crease, though unable to poke it by to double their lead.
After another shot attempt from Ville Ottavainen, the play would be whistled down, this forcing a face off from the centre ice dot. Up along the boards in the opposition zone, Stepien would send the puck to Simon Motew who would lose possession while fanning on the retrieval.
Again, behind Daws and the storm net, Jesse Fishman would battle for the puck before sending the puck out in front to Stepien who would struggle to find a hole to shoot through past the backstop to double their lead.
With the Rangers not backing down, it would be Greg Meireles now battling for the puck with a foot race taking place behind the net before finding the stick of Liam Howel on the side who would just miss the second goal of the afternoon for the Rangers.
After the puck made its way back out, Lucas Pfeil would make the save, this stopping play at 15:01. From the right-side dot, Kitchener would win the face off before Justin MacPherson sent the puck around the net which would find Damiani who would take the puck from the blue line before sending it back to the Rangers defensemen who would take a shot, but go wide of the net.
Back in the Rangers zone, it would be McvDonell looking to get something going, sen ding the puck across the ice, but unable to finish the play. However, the fight in the opposing zone would not end there for the hometown Rangers. After sending the puck back up to Lucas Pfiel between their own net, Arber Xhekaj would retrieve it before a whistle was called, stopping play.
From the Guelph Storm left-side dot, Chayka would drive it up from the net, sending the puck to Jacob Maillet who would pass it along the boards to Danny Zhilkin, taking a shot on Jacob Ingham, the save stopping play.
Ryan Stepien would then drive it out from the Rangers zone amongst a pile of traffic, taking a shot on Nico Daws, but the puck being saved by the Guelph Storm backstop. After the Storm chased it back up the ice, the play would be halted again after a sprawling save from Lucas Pfiel between the pipes just ten minutes in.
Back in the Guelph Storm zone, it would be Liam Hawel once again with possession as he would look to get something going around the Storm offence up along the boards in the opposing zone. However, unable to do so successfully, he would take a shot before stopping play.
This would then see a foot race break out behind the Guelph Storm net before Riley Damiani received the puck out front, just coming short of the Rangers second goal. Mike Petizian would then drive the puck back out of their zone towards Nico Daws, sending the puck across the ice to Damiani, who not backing down, would try again, but hitting the pipes and missing the net once again.
From the Guelph storm left-side dot, the Kitchener Rangers would win the face-off as Donovan Sebrango, along the boards, would send the puck across the ice to Mike Petizian who would lose possession, this forcing the puck back up the ice before being converted. This would then cause a stoppage of play with 8:06 left to play.
From the Storm left-side dot once again, MacPherson would send the puck across the ice to who would send it around to defensemen who would pass the puck around the boards as the Rangers stuck in the Guelph Storm zone. After a battle up along the boards, the Storm would chase the puck back up the ice, but MacPherson able to take the puck back out and sending it to Jesse Fishman who would take it the rest of the way with a shot of his own.
As Matthew Papais looked to get something going, Simon Motew would look to interfere, but after proving unable to do so, Jacob Ingham would stop him in his tracks, this stopping the play with five minutes remaining.
From the benches, Michael Vukojevic would send the puck across the ice, but after failing to find the sticks of his teammates, the play would be whistled down with 4:53 left on the clock. Thus would allow Andrei Bakanov to find his groove in the Kitchener Rangers zone, digging for the puck behind the net at the boards, but the Rangers, standing steady, converting on the play and sending the puck back down.
After a shot off the stick of Uba, Ingham, standing tall, would make the dave, this stopping play with 3:20 to go. From the Rangers left-side dot, Guelph, once again, would win the draw, this causing a battle at the boards for the puck, but the Rangers winning as Justin MacPherson would poke it out, but not able to do anything more.
After a sprawling save made from Ingham, Greg Meireles, along the boards, would send the puck to Donovan Sebrango who would struggle to find an open path as the Guelph Storm interfered and converted on the play, sending it back up the ice.
This would see Jacob Ingham keeping busy at the net once again, facing yet another shot before the play was whistled down in the final minute, allowing one last face off to take place to close the frame. With a shot on the Rangers backstop, Keegan Stevenson would be unsuccessful, keeping Kitchener ahead 1of the Storm 1-0.
As the Rangers, with 30.5 left, looked to convert the play one last time, the play would be whistled down for one last face-off at the Storm’s left-side dot. This would see Greg Meireles back in the circle, winning the draw for the Rangers and nearly doubling their lead on the Storm before losing the puck, headed back up to the Kitchener zone where it would die at the boards. After forty minutes of play, the Rangers would hold the lead, up 1-0 on the visiting Storm.
With the third and final period now underway at The Auditorium, the Kitchener Rangers would drop the face off as Luca Profaca would get things going, sending the puck across the ice towards the boards. After a scuffle for the puck resulting from the pass, the play would be whistled down just thirty seconds in. Kitchener would then win the face off from the right-side dot back in their own zone, though as a rush then broke out, another whistle would halt the play.
Out front of the Kitchener net, Jonathan Yantsis would hold the puck before passing it up towards the benches where he would find Reid Valade and Greg Meireles who would be looking to establish a play.
After losing possession shortly afterwards, it would be the Storm pouncing on the puck as a shot would be wired from one end to the other where Jacob Ingham would turn it over before sending the puck back up into play.
From behind the Rangers net, it would find Yantsis sending the puck to Valade, but unable to do anything with it as a bench swap would take place following the plat as Rangers remained steady. At the blue line, Arber Xhekaj would get into it with Eric Uba would rush down the ice with the puck but unable to come up with the goals on Jacob Ingham.
As the battle continued back and forth, Riley Damiani would send the puck out from behind Nico Daws and the Guelph Storm net, but not before losing it to Clark Heibert who would send it across to Uba.
Back at the Rangers zone, Yantsis would rush the puck up the ice, sending it alongside him to 71 who would take a shot on Daws, but come up just short. After a quick stoppage six minutes in, the face off would be drawn from Guelph’s right-side dot, this seeing a foot race break out down the ice as Damiani was seeking to double the Kitchener Rangers 1-0 lead.
From centre ice, Colin Campbell would send the puck back into his own zone where he would be met by a traffic jam of Rangers with the defence looking to keep Guelph limited and silent. Back in the Rangers zone, the puck would be rushed up towards the benches where Guelph would interfere with Kitchener’s play before halting play once again with another whistle.
From the centre ice dot, a battle would ensue, this finding the stick of Eric Uba who not only would take it to Jacob Ingham, but take repetitive chances at the net to poke it by him and tie the game at one. However, Ingham locked in between the pipes, would would hold on and stop the play eight minutes in.
This would then roughen the tensions already rather heated in the back and forth rally, finding a fight breaking out the boards before the Rangers converted on the play, this sending the puck back up to Nico Daws from the Guelph Storm blue line.
MacPherson would then take a shot, but going wide on the opposing net. However, the Rangers would keep the puck on their sticks, racing it back down and into their own zone. From the boards, Isaac Langdon would send the puck down towards the blue line where he would find defensemen Arber Xhekaj who would fire a shot up, but go wide before halting the play.
With 8:58n remaining, the puck would be drawn from the Guelph Storm right-side dot where Francisco Pinelli would just miss a shot, looking to get the puck back from behind the net afterwards, but losing possession. As the Kitchener Rangers energy continued, Liam Hawel would rush it back up and around the net, though unable to poke it around and in past Daws.
After a battle along the boards, the Storm would invade the visiting g Guelph Storm zone, though this wouldn’t stop the Rangers from trying as Reid Valade sent it back up the ice. This would then draw a face off from the left-side dot in the Kitchener zone where a whistle would quickly be called following a brief rush towards Daws and the net. This would then see another Rangers zone face off take place with the Storm winning the draw with 6:30 left on the clock.
From out front of Ingham and the net, Sebrango would field the puck before sending it up towards Declan McDonnell who would unload it at the oppositions blue line. This would then force another bench change with 5:39 left to play in the third. From the left-side dot in Guelph’s zone, the Rangers would drive the puck back into their zone, however, after being met by traffic jam of Storm members, Bakanov would attempt a shot, but unable to poke it through the pads of Ingham from in front of the crease.
That would see the play briefly stopped with five minutes left before another Rangers rush commenced in the Guelph Storm zone. From Kitchener’s left-side dot, Jonathan Yantsis would drive it up, but tripping just before the net, both losing the puck and stopping the play.
From centre ice with 4:28 remaining, the Storm would be quick to pounce on it as Cam Hillis grabbed the puck from beside the net, but losing possession while taking it back up to his own zone to field it.
With three minutes left, the Kitchener Rangers would be called on the penalty kill, this finding the refs meeting at centre ice to review the play while allowing both teams to briefly meet along the benches to strategize. As it concluded, Jonathan Yantsis would be sent to the penalty box on a five-minute call for slew footing.
Back in the Guelph Storm zone, Damiani would send the puck down, though at centre ice, it would be converted by the Guelph Storm who would not back down while still trailing 1-0 with just under three minutes to play. Hillis, from the centre ice red line, would take a shot on the Rangers net, but go wide on the backstop. In a last hope attempt, Michael Bianconi would take a shot on Ingham who would come up with a big save late in the game for the Rangers.
Guelph would then call a timeout, this allowing both sides to meet at the benches once more with 2:19 left remaining. From the right-side dot in the Rangers zone, Hillis and Damiani would meet, though the Rangers would win it and battle at the boards where a whistle would quickly be called. This would see Michael Vukojevic exchanging a few words with Stevenson before being pulled away.
As the Storm looked to keep Kitchener quiet, the puck would be sent up the boards to Daws, who just as he was exiting, would back pedal towards the net on a run by Liam Hawel who would come short of the insurance goal for Kitchener. With 1:11 remaining as the play was quickly converted, Daws would exit while Ingham came up with a big save to keep the Rangers 1-0 lead intact. In the last minute of play, Vukojevic would give Kitchener that insurance, netting his second goal of the season, giving Kitchener a 2-0 lead in the game’s dying seconds.
As the clock counted down, the Storm would pick it up from behind their own net, this causing one last rush to the boards in the Rangers zone where Bianconi, from the blue line, would slap one towards Ingham and right through the pads. This would bring the Storm within one with 4.7 seconds left on the clock.
From the centre ice dot, the Storm would win the last regulation face-off, but freezing the puck back in their own zone, this sounding the siren as the game came to a close at The Auditorium. This would then be followed by the annual three stars of the game with Jacob Ingham being named the game’s third after successfully saving 21 of 22 shots faced. Named second star of the game was Reid Valade with a goal in the win, meanwhile, Nico Daws would be named No. 1, making 32 saves.
After the game, The Puck Authority spoke with 19-year-old centreman Riley Damiani who said when asked about the battle that his team put up against Guelph on Sunday, “Oh, I thought we played one of our best games of the year. You know, everyone was going from top to bottom, we had all four lines going, all six D going and Iggy was a rock back there for us, so not much more we could have done. Their goalie played amazing too, so, you know, they’re a really good team, they play with a lot of pace, a lot of skill, so to manage a team like that and play the way we did, we’re pretty proud of ourselves after this one.”
Damiani was also asked about the subtle changes on the ice since last week which has seen Mike McKenzie, the general manager, take over as bench boss for head coach Jay McKee. When asked about those differences and the successes they have seen since Thursday, Damiani said, “I think we’re almost less structured. You know, we’re not thinking as much, we’re just going out and having fun. We’re just swinging everywhere, getting open for guys and you can see it, we’re all having fun out there. No one’s getting mad, no one’s getting angry, so when you’re having fun playing this game, it makes it a lot easier and I think that’s what we’re doing right now.”
With reference to the last two games which have seen great outings from both Ingham and Pfiel, Damiani said when asked about their efforts and the extra protection being offered by Kitchener’s defence, “Yeah, I think we just brought in to blocking shots and really clamping down on sticks in the d-zone. We’re not giving them a lot of opportunities and then when they bro get one, our goalies have been phenomenal back there, keeping us in games and really winning us games, so when you get performances like that from your goalies, you know, you’ve got a good chance to win every night, so we just gotta keep carrying that into next weekend, three and three, so yeah, if we keep carrying this play on, then, you know, sky’s the limit.”
Reid Valade scored one of Kitchener’s two goals on Sunday against the Guelph Storm and when asked about his performance and what he’s been doing for the team as of late, Damiani said, “Yeah, he’s a bowl out there. He’s a smaller guy, but he flies and he hits, he plays with a lot of passion, so when you got a guy like that on your line and he’s always going, it’s incredible, it makes the game easier, takes a lot off yourself. Yantsis on the other side, same thing, you know, they work pucks down low, the best of them, so making the game a lot easier for a guy like me, a smaller guy, but at the same time, you know, everyone’s got to put in that effort, everyone’s gotta be working every night to be successful.”
Lastly, when asked about chemistry and what that connection has recently done for himself and the Rangers, Damiani closed in saying, “Yeah, obviously you start to build chemistry with all the guys. You know, we’re all good buddies in there and, you know, if your good friends off the ice and they’re like the brothers off the ice, right, so when you get on the ice with them, it’s just natural and you can throw us in any different combo and the chemistry’s gonna be there at some point or another, so I think we’re really starting to find it now and just gotta keep it going.”
Following their 2-1 victory on Sunday, the Kitchener Rangers are back in action on Thursday as they pay a visit to the Windsor Spitfires with puck drop scheduled for 7:05pmET. The game can be seen on Rogers TV and OHL Live, meanwhile, it can be heard on 570News AM.