If you’re a fan of high scoring hockey games, OHL preseason games might be your cup of tea.
The Preseason Showcase in Kitchener was no different throughout the weekend, with only one game featuring a team that failed to score five goals or more.
Yes, there were blowouts.
But the finale Sunday afternoon was anything but, with the Kitchener Rangers needing a shootout to beat the Peterborough Petes 7-6.
“We got a real good taste of September 1st hockey,” Rangers head coach Jay McKee commented after the game, also alluding specifically to Saturday’s eight-game slate of OHL preseason contests.
In those games, eight teams scored at least five goals. And to break it down even more, five of those teams put up at least seven.
“A lot of times, at this time of year, things get pretty scrambley,” he said.
So while the showcase was high-scoring in itself, it wasn’t exactly out of the ordinary.
McKee says there’s a lot of youth out on the ice, as well as players just getting used to new systems. He adds there’s also some guys that try to do a bit more, and it can open up holes and generate scoring chances.
For the Rangers, McKee doesn’t seem worried.
“There’s certainly a lot to clean up (for us),” he said, “But there was a lot to like as well.”
One guy to like would be Kitchener’s 50-goal man Jonathan Yantsis, who came away with a hat-trick Sunday, capping a five-goal weekend.
Riley Damiani was another bright spot, wearing the ‘C’ against the Petes.
He scored, added two assists and provided the shootout winner at the end.
There was an excitement through the contest, as Kitchener took a two-goal lead halfway through the first on goals from Yantsis and Graham Dickerson.
Max Grondin and Curtis Trolley answered for Peterborough, while Chad Denault gave them the lead with 10 seconds left in the first.
Damiani scored two minutes into the second to tie it, but Cameron Butler restored the Petes advantage about three minutes later.
J.R. Avon made it 5-3 early in the third, before Yantsis scored two in a row (the first coming 28 seconds after the Avon marker) to tie it at five.
Mason McTavish scored the lone power play goal of the game with 4:29 left, and it looked like the Petes were going to win.
But then again, it seems luck wasn’t on their side.
With exactly six seconds to go, Declan McDonnell sent the fans into a frenzy with a breakaway goal to make it 6-6.
There was no overtime period, as the game went straight to a shootout.
Damiani was the only one to bulge the twine to clinch the win.
Grondin, much like Damiani, had a three-point afternoon for Peterborough to lead the way for his team.
In net, Jacob Ingham made 18 saves for the win. Michael Simpson stopped 47 of 53 in the loss.
But it goes without saying, the level of competition will go up once the games start counting towards the standings.
The Rangers, McKee says, basically has the roster in place. They were able to rotate a couple scratches through the weekend, with 22 players to work with.
Compare that to the Petes (27 players), North Bay Battalion (28) and Saginaw Spirit (26), who were fielding many variations of their roster in the last three days.
“That, certainly balances in our favour in the way of having a little bit of extra momentum and experience in our lineup,” McKee said, “It’ll be more difficult to generate 50 shots in the regular season when teams have their full lineups, but it’s still good to see guys working on chemistry, and getting those chances and building the confidence.”
Yes, loads of shots for the Rangers this weekend. They registered 61 against North Bay, 35 on Saginaw and 53 on Peterborough.
There was a bit of a scare for the Blueshirts Sunday, as 2019 first-rounder Francesco Pinelli went down with a lower body injury, forcing them to play the Petes with 10 forwards.
“He was going to play the game, and then in warm-ups, he just had a bit of a fluke injury, where he tweaked something,” McKee said.
“I haven’t seen him since the game was over, but I don’t think it’s going to be anything long-term.”
Pinelli was listed to play left wing on the top line with Greg Meireles and Yantsis.
The Rangers will end their preseason with a home-and-home against the Barrie Colts, which starts in Kitchener Friday, September 13 at 7:30 p.m.
Kitchener opens up the regular season a week later, September 20, against Saginaw.
Speaking of the Spirit…
SAGINAW OVERPOWERS BATTALION
Cole Perfetti had himself a Sunday morning.
The projected top 10 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft had four assists, Jake Goldowski scored twice, and Brady Gilmour had two goals and a helper.
They led the Spirit attack in a 5-2 victory over the North Bay Battalion in the showcase matinee at The Aud.
Mason Millman scored the other Saginaw marker, part of a two-point day.
But it took a while for things to get going, as Goldowski opened the scoring with under five minutes left in the second period.
Gilmour then turned out to be a backbreaker for the Troops, scoring with three seconds left in the second, and again 34 seconds into the third.
Mason Primeau and Mitchell Russell each added unassisted markers, but that was after the Spirit had a five-goal lead.
For the third straight game, North Bay gave up over 40 shots.
Christian Cicigoi made 37 saves in the loss, while Carter Tahk stopped 29 shots for Saginaw.
The Spirit will play a home-and-home with the Flint Firebirds on September 13-14. North Bay, meantime, will do the same against Owen Sound September 14-15.