The Kitchener Rangers are on the board.
“Every win is big in the playoffs,” said head coach Jay McKee.
This one though prevents them from going down 3-0. The Rangers dumped the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 3-0 at the Aud Monday in Game 3. The ‘Hounds lead the series 2-1.
For the third straight game, Kitchener opened the scoring. Greg Meireles and Riley Damiani played hot-potato on a 3-on-2 in the second, and Damiani fired home his fifth of the post-season.
Kitchener would hold on to that 1-0 lead heading into the third. It’s the first time in the series a team took a lead into the final frame.
“Every guy out there was competing and giving everything. To win, we need the effort we had from virtually every guy on the ice,” said McKee. “We’re fortunate to have that one, and we need to build off it.”
McKee called out both Kole Sherwood and Logan Brown ahead of the game behind closed doors, challenging them to be better.
After scoring 10 goals over the first two rounds, Sherwood converted his eleventh of the post-season in the third. Brown, who came into the Championship series with the playoff point lead, earned his first point against the ‘Hounds – an assist – on Sherwood’s insurance marker.
Nick McHugh, who was called out after Game 1, buried into the empty net to put the nail in the coffin.
“Oh my god. That’s the worst feeling in the game, letting your team down,” said McHugh after the Rangers Monday. “I tried to have a stronger game tonight than I did that night, and I think I did that.”
Rookie Michael Vukojevic was named the second star after earning an assist on all three Rangers’ goals.
“I gave the puck to the right guys and they put the puck in the net, thankfully,” smiled the 16-year-old after signing a fan’s Rangers Vukojevic sweater.
“It’s a big momentum shift after going down 2-0. It shows we still have some life left in us. They’re a great team. We know they’re going to be bringing it next game. We just have to stay humble.”
It was a full-team defensive effort for the Rangers. They utilized their high forward. They created turnovers in the offensive zone. They clogged up the neutral zone. They looked after their end.
It all allowed Mario Culina to be the first goalie this season to shutout the league’s top offence, making 24 saves. During the regular season, the Greyhounds were never even held to just one goal.
“I thought the guys in front of me did a really good job keeping the shots to the outside, and keeping my night easy,” said the Soo native in the post-game press conference.
Apparently, Greyhounds coach Drew Bannister agrees.
“It was an easy night for Mario,” Bannister told the press conference. “I could have played net tonight and got a shutout for the Kitchener Rangers.”
Mario Culina started this year playing USports!!!
— Chris Pope (@_ChrisPope) April 24, 2018
Game 4 goes Wednesday at the Aud. Game 5 Friday in the Soo.
Pre-game Wednesday on 570 News is at 6:35 p.m.