For­wards step up

Rangers beat Steel­heads de­spite de­pleted defence

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - JOSH BROWN Water­loo Re­gion Record

MIS­SIS­SAUGA — For­wards were vol­un­teer­ing to play defence.

That’s how thin the blue line was for the Kitch­ener Rangers in their school day game against the Mis­sis­sauga Steel­heads on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Sus­pen­sions, an in­jury and the flu pushed four start­ing rear­guards to the side­lines for the tilt at the Her­shey Cen­tre.

But the skele­ton crew played heart­breaker on Valen­tine’s Day by beat­ing the Fish, 3-2, much to the dis­may of the 5,000-plus scream­ing kids who got most of the day off school to at­tend the af­fair.

“I thought they were ex­cep­tional,” said Rangers coach Jay McKee, of his five-man de­fen­sive unit.

Kitch­ener was miss­ing its three most vet­eran play­ers.

Lo­gan Stan­ley was wrap­ping up his two-game sus­pen­sion for check­ing to the head while Austin McE­neny was be­gin­ning his two-gamer for bit­ing. Pitts­burgh Pen­guins prospect Con­nor Hall is out with an up­per-body in­jury and rookie Jack York had the flu.

That left sopho­more Gio­vanni Val­lati, rookie Michael Vuko­je­vic, con­verted for­ward Joseph Gar­reffa, vet­eran Kyle Gen­tles and Jr. B call-up Alex Peter­son to han­dle the Fish, who came into the con­test on a 10-3-0-1 run.

“It’s a heavy load for those guys,” said McKee.

“That club (Mis­sis­sauga) is def­i­nitely a bet­ter club than it shows in the stand­ings and I think our young guys did a great job.”

There was a def­i­nite home­town ad­van­tage Wed­nes­day.

Kids from schools across Mis­sis­sauga showed their sup­port by cheer­ing, danc­ing and hold­ing signs of en­cour­age­ment.

And the Trout fed off the en­thu­si­asm.

Al­bert Michnac com­pleted a pretty pass­ing play on the power play to pop his 21st of the sea­son past Kitch­ener keeper Mario Culina just shy of the eight-minute mark of the first pe­riod.

Fans were still cel­e­brat­ing the goal when Rangers cen­tre Lo­gan Brown an­swered 32 sec­onds later. Kole Sher­wood added a pair — for 24 on the sea­son — be­fore the break to give the Blueshirts a 3-1 lead.

Mis­sis­sauga winger Ni­cholas Canade made it a one-goal game by tak­ing a pass as he stepped out of the penalty box, rac­ing in on Culina and go­ing short side with the puck mid­way through the third.

The marker set up a tense fin­ish.

Kitch­ener’s defence was hang­ing on as play­ers such as Val­lati and Gar­reffa closed in on nearly 40 min­utes of ice time.

“Ev­ery­one bat­tled and played to the best of their abil­i­ties,” said Val­lati. “It was a good team ef­fort. It was tough play­ing with five D but we’re look­ing for­ward to get­ting Stan­ley back for the next game and to keep things go­ing.”

Culina was sen­sa­tional and made 27 saves to im­prove to 10-0 with the Rangers.

The Blueshirts have won three con­sec­u­tive games and 10 of their past 11 but a busy week looms. Fri­day, it’s off to Lon­don to face the Knights then it’s east to Kingston on Sun­day and Ot­tawa on Mon­day.

Kitch­ener cen­tre Greg Meire­les re­turned to ac­tion af­ter miss­ing the past 13 games with a lower-body in­jury and played a smart and phys­i­cal game.

“I felt pretty good out there,” he said. “My con­di­tion­ing is still not there but it felt great to be back with the guys and help­ing the team out.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.