Winning never gets old.
And for the Kitchener Rangers, they have shown very few flaws in the last 24 games, a stretch where they’ve lost just once in regulation.
On Don Cameron Potato Night, they were more than up for the Sarnia Sting, scoring five goals in the first period in a 7-4 victory Friday night.
Reid Valade scored twice and added a helper, Riley Damiani added three assists and the two newest Rangers scored their first goal with the team.
The goals piled up as much as the potatoes and cash were in the entranceways --- 5,000 lbs of spuds and $7,400 was collected for the House of Friendship’s emergency food hamper program --- and it seemed to be all going one way.
Jonathan Yantsis and Serron Noel put Kitchener up early, scoring 23 seconds apart around four minutes in.
“It’s great, I’m happy for him,” Rangers interim coach and GM Mike McKenzie said of Noel scoring, “I think all the guys on the bench were happy for him too. It hasn’t been that long of a time, but it felt like one of those things where it was getting a little bit longer, and it’s nice for him to get the monkey off his back, and he can just move on and play now.”
“Felt good to get the monkey off my back,” Noel commented, “It was long overdue, but it definitely felt good to get it off the back, for sure.”
Ryan McGregor replied for Sarnia to the cut the lead in half about seven minutes later.
But that seemed to spark something for Kitchener, with Valade, Donovan Sebrango and Holden Wale going off for goals 56 seconds apart.
The Sebrango goal chased Ethan Langevin, and the seventh overall pick in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection Ben Gaudreau went in goal for the Sting. Wale’s goal was the first shot he faced, but Gaudreau seemed to settle in after.
Valade and Ryan Roth exchanged second period goals, amid a crazy frame with a few misconducts handed out.
Mike Petizian scored a couple minutes into the second to balloon the Ranger lead to five. It was Petizian’s seventh goal in his last eight games.
But the Sting started making things interesting late, scoring twice (Eric Hjorth and Roth), gaining some momentum.
“We talked about it after the game,” McKenzie said of the letdown in the third, “It’s hard to play in that type of atmosphere, so I understand what’s going on in their minds. But as a team, we need to make sure that habits aren’t rolling over into the next game.”
“As individuals too, they’re still getting evaluated by people up there watching, and the evaluation process doesn’t just end because it’s three, four or five nothing. Those people come to watch them play and evaluate them, and I think that’s important for them to understand too. From a team standpoint, and an individual standpoint, we’ve got to keep playing hard.”
The third period, if anything, might be the biggest flaw of over the last two dozen contests, which is saying something for a team that’s 21-1-1 taking a lead into the final frame this season.
Remember the game against Hamilton on December 13?
A 9-2 lead turned into a 9-6 final after the Rangers gave up four unanswered in the final 11 minutes.
As well, Kitchener held a lead in the third in all three games they have lost since McKenzie took over the bench.
The game against the Soo in December, Kitchener let a 3-1 lead evaporate with five Greyhound goals in the final 11 minutes in a 6-3 final.
But yeah, it might be knit picking in some people’s eyes, considering what this team has been able to accomplish.
A 21-1-2 record in the last 24 games, highlighted by contributions up and down the lineup.
Petizian is providing that aforementioned secondary scoring, Liam Hawel has the longest active point streak in the OHL at 10 games after three assists Friday.
Jacob Ingham has also been consistent, after collecting his ninth win in 10 starts, making 34 saves.
It's not just the top line carrying the load. Everyone is chipping in, and they'll need that more and more down the stretch if they hope to have a deep playoff run.
Gaudreau finished with 22 saves on 25 shots in relief, and was credited with the loss. Langevin finished with six saves on 10 shots.
The Rangers are back in action Sunday afternoon on the road in Mississauga.
Pregame on 570 NEWS is 1:30 p.m.
What an amazing night for some hockey and... spuds. It’s #DonCameronPotatoNight at the Aud as the Kitchener Rangers take on the Sting Hockey. Thank you for all the donations and Go Rangers Go! #RTown #ohlhockey #gametime pic.twitter.com/7IxyYsreiU— CHYM 96.7 (@CHYM967) January 25, 2020