With a win over Guelph on Sunday, things are starting to look up for the Rangers, however, on Friday, they faced a large challenge as they welcomed to Kitchener the Niagara IceDogs. While it was just another game, there were several things for both teams to look out for as Serron Noel made his Rangers debut after being acquired from the Oshawa Generals.
For the IceDogs, they entered The Aud just six days after squaring off on home ice where the Kitchener Rangers pushed the game into overtime, but fell 7-6 in the first of two meetings.
Just two days after adding winger Serron Noel from the Oshawa Generals, the Kitchener Rangers returned home on Friday, playing host to the visiting Niagara IceDogs. However, hours prior, the team added another in hopes of clinching a spot in the playoffs, acquiring defensemen Holden Wale from the Greyhounds in exchange for a pair of future draft selections. Despite being brought in on game day, the native of Brantford would be scratched from the lineup while Serron Noel drew in for his debut, playing on a line with Greg Meireles and Mike Petizian.
Speaking of Kitchener scratches, Wale would not be alone in that category as he was joined by his fellow teammates in Liam Hawel and Arber Xhekaj. Getting a night off as well for the Rangers would be backup goaltender Lucas Pfeil, this paving the way for Jacob Ingham to start at The Aud against Andrew MacLean. Much like Serron Noel, MacLean was dealt from the Generals in exchange for a 2022 draft pick on Wednesday.
While the Rangers front office has been busy, that makes no exception for the Kitchener Rangers as the team traded two key team members on Thursday in Akil Thomas and Philip Tomasino. While restocking their OHL draft board, the team had not yet completed their duties as the IceDogs acquired Cameron Peters from North Bay in exchange for the rights to Christian Stevens. Joining Stevens en route to the Battalion would be a third and an eighth-round draft pick. As for new look Niagara IceDogs, Peters would be joined by a sixth-round draft pick.
For the Rangers, they entered their first game without Ryan Stepien drawn into the lineup as he was dealt to the Generals on Wednesday in exchange for the 6’5 right-winger that is Noel. After skating with Kitchener on Thursday, Noel said when discussing the deal, “I was definitely expecting to get moved from discussions with Oshawa and my agent but I had no idea it was going to be Kitchener. I’m excited to be here. I think we have a really good shot at winning. I’m excited to play in front of the fans.”
On Friday, he did just that for the first time since early November which would be the last time Noel skated in Kitchener as part of the CIBC Canada Russia Series. When talking about the feeling to be playing at The Aud on the home team, Noel said, “I got to sit on the left (home) bench so it was good to be getting cheered on by the fans. It’s a great atmosphere.”
With the loss of Akil Thomas on Thursday, the IceDogs made another change on Friday as Ivan Lodnia was announced prior to game time as the team’s 13th captain in franchise history. Lodnia, a Michigan native, would lead his team onto the ice on Friday. Thus would set the scene for the end of week matchup at The Aud in Kitchener.
As the game in Southwestern Ontario got underway before a sold out crowd, it would see the IceDogs win the draw at centre ice, but not for long as the Kitchener Rangers would send it quickly up to Andrew MacLean. After a strong first battle near the benches, the first game stoppage of the night would be called.
As the play resumed shortly after, it would see Reid Valade with a sharp shot from the right-side, but coming just short before Riley Damiani, retrieving the puck with a shot of his own. After another pair taken on MacLean, the game once again would be called to a halt. From the right-side dot in the Niagara IceDogs zone, it would see Francesco Pinelli win the puck draw and send it quickly across the ice to the boards.
After a series of passes at the blue line, the Rangers would lose it to the opposing IceDogs. That would allow Ivan Lodnia to take the puck down to Jacob Ingham, but quickly reversed as Joseph Serpa would skate right through it before rushing it up. At this point, Jesse Fishman would snag it and take a shot on MacLean, but promptly saved, stopping play.
The Rangers, not easy to stop, would pounce once again on the visiting IceDogs as Donavan Sebrango would take it before the net, but lose it before a close call on Kitchener’s end nearby Ingham and the net. From the red line out near the penalty box, the Rangers would battle for the puck with Andrew Bruder and convert the play out towards the benches which would pave the way for a shot from Jonathan Yantsis. While unable to get through, it would quickly build up the momentum, this seeing MacLean keep busy early on, maintaining the scoreless tie six minutes in.
After another battle in the IceDogs end, the game would be whistled down at 14:24. This would call for a face-off from Niagara’s left-side dot, but after a quick rush to the Rangers zone, the game once again would be whistled down.
Now, from out front of the benches, the Rangers would lose the puck out near the red line, this seeing Serpa hold the puck on his stick before losing possession followed by another quick shot. However, Andrew MacLean would hold his ground, keeping the Rangers silent and limited early on.
Again, from the IceDogs end, the Kitchener Rangers would win the draw, but struggling to hold onto the puck in their own zone while taking Adrien Beraldo down along the boards. As the puck made its way down the ice, Joseph Serpa would send it to the boards, this causing a scuffle up along the boards before being poked out and back up the ice away from Ingham. This would cause the game to be whistled down on a stoppage of play.
As the play then resumed from the right-side dot in the Rangers zone, just ahead of Ingham, it would see Ville Ottavainen up along the boards, unable to handle it and send the puck out. This would see the game be called a stoppage now nine minutes in. Again, from the IceDogs zone, the puck would be drawn at the left-side dot, the Rangers dropping it, but not before Dakota Betts lost it at the boards, allowing Kitchener the ability to turn it and pass it around.
This would pave the way for Donavan Sebrango along the boards who would send the puck to Riley Damiani at the blue line to set up a goal before Andrew MacLean. While unable to find a clear path, the game would be called for a stoppage of play.
Now, from the centre ice dot, it would be Mike Petezian poking it through to the IceDogs zone, but quickly converted as Niagara’s defence sent the puck back down the ice. This would send the Rangers chasing before being called for a stoppage of play. As a bench swap took effect as well, it would see the play now resuming from Kitchener’s left side dot where the Rangers would win, sending it behind to the boards. From behind Jacob Ingham, Declan McDonnell would retrieve the puck, skating it up towards Andrew MacLean, but lost at the blue line before being turned around.
As the IceDogs continued to block the Kitchener Rangers from the Niagara net, it would only start another Rangers goal formation as Sebrango sent the puck down to Michael Vukojevic. This would find the defensemen with the pass being sent from the IceDogs blue line. With a shooting lane now wide open to the left side of the net near MacLean, Greg Meireles would send the puck to Vukojevic who would snipe a shot right down, but unable to poke it by and into the mesh.
With eight minutes left in the frame, it would see Niagara now taking advantage, this sending their offence up the ice to Jacob Ingham and the Kitchener net. As the battle was sent to the boards, it would be Jonah De Simone holding the puck hostage, but the Rangers then able to send the puck back out and into their zone where it would find Jacob Ingham. After sending the puck back up, it would find the stick of Justin McPherson who would rush up the ice towards Andrew MacLean before passing it to Reid Valade who would find Jonathan Yantsis. Yantsis, nearby the net, would manage to poke it right through for the goal, it being the Rangers first goal of the night and his 28th goal of the regular season.
As the play from centre ice resumed, it saw Niagara’s defence start tightening up, this seeing the puck head up the ice to MacLean before being passed along as a whistle was called. Out front of the IceDogs net, it would see Giancarlo Chanton hard at work as he defended Niagara’s zone with Kitchener now seeking to double their lead. However, after losing the puck, this would see the defensemen on a rush to the blue line. That would find Jacob Ingham back at work on the other end, but not long before it was sent back up where Reid Valade took a shot but just missed. As a result, the Rangers remained silent while leading Niagara 1-0 early on.
MacPherson would then give it his shot, but hitting the blocker of MacLean and kept out. After a brief battle at the boards behind the opposing Niagara net, Justin McPherson would send it behind him where Jesse Fishman would quickly retrieve it. At this point, he would pass the puck alongside him to Joseph Serpa who would poke it right in. This would be Kitchener’s second goal with 3:42 left to play in the first. The goal would also be Serpa’s second goal of the regular season.
As the IceDogs continued working to find their way in past Jacob Ingham, the L.A. Kings draft pick would come up clutch with a beautiful save to maintain the Rangers lead. With 1:42 remaining, this would see the play once again whistled down. Now from the centre ice dot, the Niagara IceDogs would jump on the puck, this finding a scuffle along the boards near the net where the Rangers converted to send the puck out and up.
As the game’s final minutes took place, the puck was sent down the boards to Ingham, but sent back up, finding Isaac Enright who would handle the puck from behind Andrew MacLean. After finding his path down the ice, Enright would rush down for one last shot, but after coming just short on Ingham, the horn would then sound on the game’s first period.
After a 17 minute intermission allowing both teams to relax and recuperate, the Rangers and IceDogs hit the ice at The Aud as the game’s second period commenced in Kitchener. As such, it would see Ivan Lodnia and Joseph Serpa square off from the face-off dot, the Rangers winning it and sending it down to the IceDogs zone towards Andrew MacLean. Sebrango, from the IceDogs blue line, would be the first one to claim the puck, sending it up to Petizian at the boards before retrieving it again and shooting on MacLean. After missing the period’s first shot, the play once again would be whistled down.
Once the second frame resumed, the hometown Rangers would win the draw, but after a brief rush taken by Kitchener, the game would be stopped and whistled down one minute in. As the puck was quickly converted the other way to the Rangers zone, Isaac Enright would take a shot from the blue line, but unable to poke it past Jacob Ingham. After a brief battle up along the boards, the whistle would sound with another stoppage called.
The Rangers, still coming out strong, would take the rush up to Andrew MacLean, this seen g one of their own hit to the boards before sent up the ice where the puck was converted. Anthony Agostinelli would then rush up the ice towards Jacob Ingham with an open shooting lane, but after being taken down at the blue line, the Rangers would convert, this once again stopping play.
As Kitchener looked to keep the puck away from the hands and sticks of the Niagara IceDogs, the puck made its way up the ice to Jacob Ingham before being whistled down, halting the play. Now from the right-side dot, a shot right to Ingham would stop the play three minutes in. The draw, again from the dot, would see the Rangers come out fast with the win, the puck then being sent back to the boards before being carried out and down towards Andrew MacLean on the other end of the ice. As the ice opened up in the Rangers zone, it would see Lodnia take a shot on Ingham, but the starting goaltender standing tall, keeping it out.
As Kitchener looked to do more damage, they would turn the puck back down the ice towards MacLean, this causing a scuffle up along the boards before being held and knocked loose at the blue line. Petizian, now at the boards, would knock the puck loose from the stick of Isaac Enright, this allowing the Rangers to send the puck up to Jacob Ingham to handle in their own zone.
However, this would only last so long as the puck was poked down where Isaac Enright would handle it himself while looking for a passing lane en route to the Rangers net. After a conversion nearby centre ice, the play would be halted now six minutes in. From the Niagara IceDogs right-side dot, the Kitchener Rangers would win the draw as Justin MacPherson, from Niagara’s blue line, took a shot on MacLean, but going wide of the net.
After retrieving the puck again, MacPherson would skate it back up to Ingham before it was knocked loose nearby centre ice as the IceDogs then took charge looking to get on the board at the eight minute mark. With the IceDogs now buckling up, it would send their offence up the ice towards Ingham, but the OHL veteran, through traffic, holding steady while sending the puck out of the crease to the offence now set before him. While Michael Vukojevic handled the puck from behind the net in the Rangers zone, Jacob Ingham would briefly exit before a call for a stoppage of play.
This would see the Rangers claim their first power play of the game. Isaac Enright would go the box after being called for interference. This would see the Rangers one man up on the visiting IceDogs, allowing Bergkvist the chance to get something going, sending it in front of him, but unable to get through.
This would then be followed by a flurry of Kitchener chances on Andrew MacLean before a scuffle behind the net at the boards where a whistle would be called, once again halting play. With 9:58 remaining, the IceDogs would meet with the refs at the net, but quickly cleared as the two sides faced off at the IceDogs right-side dot where the puck found the boards. This once again would result in a stoppage of play.
Now from the left-side dot, the Kitchener Rangers would win the draw, this seeing Damiani retrieve the puck at the blue line before passing it beside him to Greg Meireles who would take a shot on MacLean, but going wide of the net and converting the play. As the IceDogs continued to hustle, the play, now in the Kitchener Rangers zone, would see Axel Bergkvist and the team’s new captain with a brief scuffle at the boards before the defensemen poked it back out and towards the IceDogs. With 8:16 on the clock, it would see Vukojevic lay a hit on AJ Cook, this giving the Rangers their first penalty of the night while still leading the IceDogs 2-0.
Once the game picked up just under 13 minutes into the frame, the draw would come from the Rangers right-side dot where the Rangers would win win it, sending the puck down the empty ice along the boards to the IceDogs net, but turned around at the red line. As it was converted, Reid Valade rushed it down with a lap around down the boards and around the net, but after unable to find a teammate, the puck would quickly find Mike Petizian who would send it to Reid Valade now with the shot, but saved, this once again halting play. With Niagara now holding the puck, a shot would be taken on Ingham, but also saved which would stop the play.
With 6:50 left ion the frame, Niagara would tush the puck up the ice where Ivan Lodnia would find Beraldo at the blue line, but unable to find a shooting lane to send it up the ice to Ingham. However, the Rangers goaltender would face a flurry of shots, but keeping the IceDogs silent and the puck out of the net. After another quick shot on Ingham, the play, with 6:02 left, would be halted. Now from the left-side dot in the Kitchener Rangers zone, the puck would be sniped to the other side before making its way down the ice to MacLean. This would pave the way for Francesco Pinelli to triple Kitchener’s lead, netting the puck right in front of the crease, his 13th goal of the regular season. This would see Niagara now trailing by three in the game’s middle frame.
Once the game resumed with five minutes left on the clock, it would find the Rangers still skating around the IceDogs where Ville Ottavainen would take a shot from the blue line, but going just wide before being halted on a whistle. With 3:55 to play and the puck being dropped now from centre ice, the IceDogs would take it away from the Rangers and send it back to MacLean before rushing it back up. However, Michael Vukojevic would interfere with the play behind Ingham and the net, allowing Kitchener to continue their mojo back in Niagara’s zone.
However, that would come before a shot taken on Ingham which would find its way past him and to the back of the mesh. The goal, given to Ivan Lodnia, would be his 20th of the regular season on an assist from Oliver Castleman to get Niagara on the scoreboard with 2:15 left remaining. As the IceDogs continued this stretch, they would send the puck back up towards Ingham, but not before a Rangers defence that followed the play back up the ice to Jacob Ingham and the Kitchener net. After claiming possession in Niagara’s zone, Pinelli would retrieve the puck and take a shot off the crossbar, just missing what would be his second goal of the night.
In the game’s final minute of play, it wold see Mike Petizian retrieve the puck at the net, this coming before sending it down from the boards where he would find the stick of Serron Noel. The team’s newest acquisition would then take a shot on MacLean, but missing the mesh with just 05.9 left to play in the frame. After the puck was drawn once last time at the left-side dot in the IceDogs zone, it would barely make its way to the blue line as the horn would sound, bringing the frame to a close.
With the third and final period now underway at The Aud in Kitchener, it would see the Rangers win the draw at centre ice where Mike Petizian would take the puck right from centre ice, skating back to Ingham before racing it back up with a shot on MacLean to open the game’s third and final period. After a puck conversion at centre ice, the play would be stopped just one minute in. The Rangers, in hopes of a victory, would come out strong from the draw with Niagara as Reid Valade would rush up along the boards and in front of MacLean, poking it right through for his 13th of the season. Riley Damiani and Jonathan Yantsis would earn the assists on the Rangers fourth goal. Just seconds after tightening their lead, Niagara would come right back and poke one by Ingham, now trailing by two. The goal would be scored by Cameron Snow with an assist from Landon Cato.
Coming back up from the net in their own zone, Kitchener would continue to execute the puck well, but whistled down along the boards near the left-side dot in the IceDogs zone. As the battle continued near MacLean, the Rangers would continue to get defeated defensively, but after finding the puck in their own zone, Greg Meireles would rush it back up before taking a shot, but going wide to the boards.
In an attempt to find the net on the other end, Mason Howard would take the puck down to Ingham before taking a shot from the Kitchener blue line, but missing the net, going wide to the boards. Now from the left-side dot, Damiani would win the draw in the Rangers zone where he would poke it behind him to Sebrango who would rush it back up, but not before the game was halted five minutes in. As the Rangers looked to hold steady, the puck would be passed down to Jacob Ingham who would then send it up the ice to Vukojevic before Reid Valade took it to MacLean at the net. After a scuffle in attempt of a goal, the IceDogs converted and turned the play back around at the six minute mark.
Back in the Niagara Zone, Isaac Langdon would get knocked up along the boards with the IceDogs looking to poke it out and back down, but Kitchener finding the path to maintain possession as it was sent back to Ingham. Now up along the the benches, Sebrango would look for a passing lane, but lost to Howard headed down towards Ingham, though losing it quickly to Rangers strong defence. This would allow some breathing room for Kitchener to find both the puck and their game as it made its way to Andrew MacLean where the puck was pushed out of the crease amidst a battle, causing traffic in the zone.
Up the ice now from their own zone, Serron Noel would find the puck from behind the net and take an open shot, but just missing as MacLean allowed no room for it to get through, still trailing by two. Jonathan Yantsis, from along the benches, would rush it up and behind the net, but unable to find room himself as Niagara the. claimed it and sent the puck the other way. As the IceDogs looked to dominate with control, Lodnia would snipe a shot on Jacob Ingham, but hitting his pad and bouncing back into play with 9:40 left.
Now at Niagara’s right-side dot, Declan McDonnell, with room to spare would look for his shot on Andrew MacLean. As the back-and-forht contest resumed, it would see the IceDogs holding the puck hostage while also keeping off the sticks of hometown Rangers. This would then result in a stoppage of play with 8:38 left to play.
Now from the centre ice dot, the IceDogs would win the draw dropped against Kitchener as the puck found Beraldo who send down a rocket with a shot on Ingham after taking it from the draw. However, the Rangers, always quick to convert, would send it back up as they looked to do more. From the IceDogs left-side dot, it would see Mike Petizian take a shot on Andrew MacLean while doing so amidst traffic. After being whistled down once again, the puck would be dropped at centre ice, this allowing the home team to dominate offensively while surrounding the IceDogs from the blue line up all the way to the net.
As the battle at the blue line continued, it saw Niagara poke the puck free and down the ice where Ingham would take it and send it back up to Kitchener with 6:30 remaining. As the puck found the stick of Serpa, he would rush up to the net, finding Graham Dickerson who would come so close, but not in past MacLean for a 5-2 lead.
At the boards in the Kitchener Rangers zone, Sebrango would poke it free and send it back towards Mike Petizian. This would allow the defensemen to rush up the ice while decking the IceDogs, however, as he made his way to MacLean and the net, he would trip and fall behind the pipes, the effort being recognized as the play then came to a halt.
With 4:50 left on the clock, Francesco Pinelli, from the boards in Niagara’s zone, would send the puck to Declan McDonnell who was set at the blue line for a shot on the net. Unfortunately for Kitchener, they would lose possession at the hands of the IceDogs who had other plans. As such, it was turned towards Ingham, though the Rangers would convert and take it back up to the blue line in and effort to score.
It would then see Reid Valade, from the blue line, retrieve the puck and take a shot on the IceDogs goaltender, but again being stopped, still leading 4-2. In an act of theatrics from Kitchener, a shot would be fired and so merely from the blue line finding the net for a good goal, bringing the crowd to its feet.
That would do it for MacLean as he exited the net with 1:41 left, this seeing the opposition gap now widen as Greg Meireles and Serron Noel got to work. They would do while having to work around Niagara’s defence and miss the mesh with a series of shots. However, that wouldn’t last for long as another attempt would allow Mike Petizian to score his eighth goal of the regular season.
This would start the countdown in the game’s final minute of play as the Rangers, from the left-side dot, in Niagara’s zone, put up a battle for the puck. With MacLean now back between the pipes, he would make the save, keeping the Rangers lead at three. Behind MacLean and the Niagara net, Joseph Serpa would carefully rush down the ice, taking the puck back to Jacob Ingham.
In a last minute attempt to limit any chances from the Niagara IceDogs, the puck would remain in Kitchener’s possession as the final game horn sounded with the clock counting down. As a result, it would give the Rangers a 5-2 victory in Serron Noel’s debut. This would then be followed by the annual three stars of the game with Christian Sbaraglia named the game’s third after successfully saving 34 of 39 shots faced. Named second star of the game was Justin MacPherson with two assists in the win, meanwhile, Reid Valade would be named No. 1, scoring the game’s fourth goal while adding on an assist.
After the game, The Puck Authority spoke with 19-year-old goaltender Jacob Ingham who said when asked about the battle that his team put up against Niagara on Friday, “Yeah, I thought we played really good as a team and you know, Noel’s first game and I thought the boys played pretty well, we brought a lot of compete and you know, they beat us in overtime in Niagara, so we kind of owned them a little bit in this game, so I thought overall, it was a good game to work on a couple things, thought we were a little bit sloppy at times, but thought we were ok.”
Ingham was also asked about the acquisition of Serron Noel who joined the Rangers for the first time on Thursday after being acquired from the Oshawa Generals. When asked about his sudden impact chemistry wise and what he likes from the 6’5 right-winger, Ingham said, “Yeah, I think with the deadline being over, a couple guys will take a little bit of a sigh of relief and you know, can just get ready and get back into playing hockey and you know, a couple of the guys are just like that, but you know, Serron obviously being here really kind of evens out our first line, our first, second line and our power play, you know, he’s a great player, he’s a big body, he can drive the net hard and he’s a skill guy too, so it’s always great to have those guys out there.”
With reference to the trade for Noel which saw Ryan Stepien being dealt to the Generals, Jacob Ingham said when asked about the chemistry that parts in the locker room at the loss of a teammate, “Yeah, obviously Steppy was a great guy and you know, it’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment period getting used to Serron and Holden when they get here and then obviously losing Steppy, you know, I was pretty close with Steppy and you know, it’s kind of tough to see him go, but you know, it’s hockey and stuff like that just has to happen sometimes in order for a team’s success.”
Lastly, when asked about the message being relayed from McKenzie as the team piles on wins, Jacob Ingham closed in saying, “Yeah, I think we’re just shooting for first place in our division and hopefully win our division and that’s our goal going into the end of the year.”
The Puck Authority also spoke with Mike McKenzie, the team’s general manager, who said when asked about Jacob Ingham, his Friday performance and what he’s been liking, “Yeah, he’s been great for us. He’s a huge key to our success. When there’s a breakdown, he’s always there to help out and make up for it, so huge part of our team, you pretty much know he’s gonna be good every night he’s out there and guys have total confidence in him right now the way he’s playing.”
Following their 5-2 victory on Friday, the Kitchener Rangers are back in action on Saturday as they pay a visit to the Barrie Colts with puck drop scheduled for 7:30pmET. The game can be seen on Rogers TV and OHL Live, meanwhile, it can be heard on 570News AM.