The Kitchener Rangers are facing elimination for the first time in this playoffs.
For the first time in the series the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds scored first, and they didn’t look back.
The Greyhounds grounded the Rangers 7-3 to take a 3-2 series lead ahead of Game 6 Sunday afternoon at the Aud.
“The Soo brought their A game tonight,” said Rangers head coach Jay McKee. “We brought our C game, at best.”
Kitchener was stuck chasing the game from start to finish. If not for Mario Culina the score could have been much worse. He was sensational, especially in the second period, stopping 37 shots against his hometown team.
“We weren’t sharp. We didn’t have the compete level coming back for pucks we did in previous games,” said McKee. “Our decision making wasn’t good. Early in the game, when you want to set the tone and get the momentum, we looked off shots.”
McKee pointed out a three-on-one in the first period for Adam Mascherin, Kole Sherwood and Logan Brown – the Rangers’ top point producers – and they were unable to get a shot attempt.
“They go back the other way, throw a puck at the net, get a bounce and it’s in the net,” said McKee. “One of the key themes has been shot mentality; something we talk about all the time. We had at least three times in the first period with our top guys, they didn’t want to put the puck at the net and you can’t score.”
“We have a goalie over there, that got pulled last game. We scored on our first shot, and then decided not to shoot.”
Jack Kopacka led the Greyhounds offensively with a hat-trick and an assist.
In the second period down 3-1, Logan Brown notched his fifth of the playoffs to make it a one-goal game. But, the Greyhounds scored twice in 1:15 to stretch their lead to three goals.
The Rangers front office gave their team a chance to succeed by choosing to fly the team to the Soo, to avoid the long eight-hour bus trip.
“Everything was given to us. There are no excuses for not coming out and playing well,” said Kitchener captain Connor Bunnaman. “We have a lot of privileges in Kitch and we’re very grateful for them. We just have to play like we did in games three and four. That’s how Kitchener Rangers hockey is supposed to be played.”
Kitchener is now faced with trumping the CHL’s best team twice in a row, again. This time though, one of those wins will have to come at the Essar Centre where the Greyhounds only lost three games in the regular season.
First things first. Game 6 Sunday at the Aud, where the Rangers are 7-1 during the playoffs.
Don Cameron steps in to bring you the call, with the Harris Law pre-game show beginning at 1:30 p.m.