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Rangers squander third period lead but win in shootout

For the second time in a week, the Kitchener Rangers had to settle for the shootout, but this time, they came out on top
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Kitchener Rangers goaltender Pavel Cajan makes a save during an exhibition game against the Mississauga Steelheads.

Third period leads have not been safe this preseason for the last couple games for the Kitchener Rangers.

They gave up two goals in the final minute last Saturday in Barrie, and lost in a shootout.

On Friday, the Mississauga Steelheads scored with 27.2 seconds left on the clock to send the game straight to the skills competition, with no overtime period during exhibition play.

This time, however, Andrew Leblanc scored the only goal and the Rangers overcame Mississauga 4-3 at The Aud.

"To be honest, we're probably lucky to win the game," said Rangers head coach and general manager Mike McKenzie, "Mississauga, I thought, thoroughly outplayed us from start to finish."

"Not our best effort overall, that's for sure."

He credited the work of goaltender Pavel Cajan, keeping the team in the game.

Cajan made 39 saves, plus the three in the shootout.  A number of his saves in regulation were of the spectacular variety, from a two-on-one to a golden chance for two Steelheads in front of the net with nobody covering them.

The projected starter went the full 60 minutes again, after playing the full 60 last Saturday.

"He's been great for us," McKenzie said of the Czech goalie, "It's really positive for our team that we have not just him, but Jackson (Parsons) also played really well too in his first game."

"We got two really capable goalies.  For Pavel, that was the reason why we chose him two years ago in the import draft, to come in as an 18-year-old and get his feet wet --- obviously didn't get to do that last year --- and then be ready to come in as a 19-year-old and be rock solid for us."

"He's shown that so far in two games.  We probably would like to be a little better in front of him so he doesn't have to see many shots, but overall, it's been really positive in our crease."

The Rangers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, scoring 18 seconds apart with about five minutes gone in the game.

Joseph Serpa and Mike Petizian were credited with the back-to-back markers, a lead they would hold after 20 minutes.

The teams traded goals in the second, first it was Luca DelBelBelluz nearly two minutes in before Andrew Leblanc scored on the power play at the 10:32 mark of the middle frame.

Zander Veccia made it a one-goal game early in the third, and James Hardie tied it with the net empty.

Of note, many teams at this time of year are missing key players due to NHL camps.

The Rangers were no different, having to play without several top six forwards and only iced five defensemen.

The two teams go at it again Sunday in Mississauga, before the Rangers return to the Aud next Friday, October 1 at 7:30 p.m. against Niagara.


Mark Pare

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