On the heels of a disappointing loss 24 hours earlier in the opening game of a three-game road trip, things didn’t get much better for the Soo Greyhounds on Friday night.
The team fell behind by a pair of goals before the game was 10 minutes old and, despite continually battling back, the team dropped a 5-4 Ontario Hockey League decision to the Kitchener Rangers at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
The team came back to tie the game on three different occasions before giving up a power play goal midway through the third period that was the eventual game-winning goal.
“It was a sloppy game in general,” said Greyhounds coach John Dean. “We struggled in our own end, but we were very successful in theirs. There are some positives for sure in that we kept fighting back and there’s some good things to take there, but in general it was a sloppy game. And that’s a sign of a team that’s holding their stick a little tight and wants to play with a little more confidence.”
The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Rangers, which included a loss to Saginaw in which the team led 4-0 before surrendering six unanswered goals in a 6-4 loss.
Friday’s win was a big step for the Rangers.
“That’s as close to Rangers hockey that we’ve seen all year,” Kitchener general manager/coach Mike McKenzie said in a post-game interview with RogersTV. “If we come out and, mentally, we’re in the game right from the drop of the puck and we play like that, we’re going to be a hard team to beat. We might not win every game, but we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win every game.”
The Rangers scored three times on the power play in five opportunities in the win, while also scoring a shorthanded goal early on in the game.
“Special teams killed us tonight,” said veteran forward Tye Kartye.
“We have to bear down on the penalty kill, bottom line,” Dean added. “We didn’t get in front of some shots, a few missed assignments, it’s unacceptable. It has to be better. If we’re a little bit better there, we probably win a hockey game.”
Dean said not having associate coach Jordan Smith, who works heavily with the penalty killing units, on the bench has played a role in the recent struggles. Smith is currently working with Hockey Canada at the Capital City Challenge in Ottawa.
“(The penalty kill) is something he takes a lot of pride in,” Dean said. “He’s done a great job of progressively getting better every game. There’s a comfort there with the players and the messaging and it’s a little bit different than what I’m giving, and it hasn’t translated.”
Kartye said the special teams success of the Rangers in the game came down to execution.
“They weren’t doing anything special,” Kartye said of the Rangers power play. “They out-executed us in that part of the game and it cost us. We didn’t block shots. We didn’t battle hard enough to get it done.”
Kitchener opened the scoring just 3:45 in as Reid Valade took a pass from Mike Petizian and beat Greyhounds starter Samuel Ivanov high glove side shorthanded.
With the Rangers on the power play just under five minutes later, rookie Roman Schmidt beat Ivanov with a one-timer from the left circle to make it 2-0.
The Greyhounds got on the board at 13:15 of the period when a point shot by Robert Calisti was deflected past Rangers starter Pavel Cajan in traffic to cut the Kitchener lead to one.
Just 90 seconds into the second period the Greyhounds tied the game at two when Cajan stopped a shot from the right point by Calisti, but couldn’t hold onto the puck and Tanner Dickinson poked it over the line for his ninth goal of the season.
The Rangers went ahead 3-2 when Justin Nolet beat Ivanov with a point shot glove side at 8:09.
Cole MacKay tied the game at three for the Greyhounds with a power play goal at 17:02 of the second. MacKay took a pass at the side of the goal from Dickinson and was stopped initially before banging in the rebound.
The teams traded goals early in the third period when Nolet got his second of the night at 2:52 on a shot from the high slot on the power play before Tye Kartye deflected a shot by Kirill Kudryavtsev past Cajan 3:05 later to make the score 4-4.
Mitchell Martin gave the Rangers the lead at 8:02 with a power play marker. The rookie forward had his first shot blocked in close but the 18-year-old scored on his second chance for the Rangers third power play goal of the game.
Dickinson finished the night with a goal and two assists for the Greyhounds while Calisti and Justin Cloutier also assisted on two goals each.
Ivanov made 34 saves for the visitors, who fall to 11-9-0-0 with the loss.
Cajan made 36 saves at the other end for the Rangers, who improve to 9-10-0-0.
Andrew LeBlanc, Joseph Serpa, and Matthew Sop assisted on a pair of goals each for Kitchener.
Following a day off on Saturday, the Greyhounds will wrap up the weekend on the road in Sarnia at Progressive Auto Sales Arena against the Sting.