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Game Stories: Storybook comeback spoiled by Rangers

Fans at the Sleeman Centre witnessed a storybook comeback that was ultimately spoiled as the Kitchener Rangers claimed the 6-5 overtime victory, in the final installment of the Highway Seven series.

Anthony Popovich was called upon by the Guelph Storm, making his 29th appearance of the season, while the Rangers look towards veteran goaltender Luke Opilka.

It was a difficult start to the opening frame for the Storm, as the Rangers quickly took the lead scoring one minute into the game on Adam Mascherin’s 35th goal of the year.

Kitchener would add to their lead after Darby Llewellyn was awarded a penalty shot after being stopped on the breakaway by Kyle Rhodes. The veteran forward made no mistake, making a slick move to beat Popovich.

Not done yet, Jonathan Yantsis and Cole Carter would add a goal each, extending the Rangers lead to four, just 14 minutes into the period.

With just over a minute to go in the period, Isaac Ratcliffe rifled home his 25th goal of the season, kick-starting the Storm’s comeback. Dmitri Samorukov and Nate Schnarr picked up the assists on the power play goal.

After the first period, the Storm trailed 4-1, despite outshooting the Rangers 15-11.

The Storm opened the second period with much more intensity than the first, as they look to find their way back into the game.

The elevation in play by the Storm paid dividends, as Guelph cut the lead in half on Matt Hotchkiss’ 13th goal of the year. Nic Sicoly set up the goal with a terrific no-look, behind the back pass to Hotchkiss.

Guelph would inch closer, in the dying moments of the period after Cedric Ralph buried a great heads-up feed from Samorukov. Hotchkiss picked up the other assists on Ralph’s 8th goal of the season.

Following the strong Storm effort, the Rangers led 4-3 while being outshot 28-18 by Guelph.

With all the momentum in Guelph’s corner, the Storm continued to amp up the pressure but were unable to beat Opilka until the 14-minute mark, when Ryan Merkley sent a point shot past the Rangers goaltender’s blocker. Garrett McFadden and Ratcliffe picked up the assists on the power play goal.

Riding the energy of the 4000 Storm faithful, Guelph would successfully take the lead just three minutes later, on Ratcliffe’s second goal of the game. McFadden picked up a Merkley pass off the boards and found Ratcliffe on a back-door slap pass.

However, in the final minutes of the game, the Rangers would find the equalizer when Connor Bunnaman buried the loose puck past Popovich.

Both teams would hold on to force overtime, and the Storm’s comeback would become overshadowed when Nick McHugh buried his second straight overtime winner just over a minute into the overtime period.

The 6-5 overtime loss, moves the Storm to 20-38-5-2, while the Rangers clinch sixth in the Western Conference improving to 36-26-2-2.

The Storm wrap up their four-game homestand Friday night when they play host to the Sarnia Sting on Fan Appreciation night. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 pm.

GAME NOTES

  • This was the eighth and final meeting between the Highway Seven rivals.
  • The Rangers won the season series, 6-2.
  • Isaac Ratcliffe extended his point streak to three games.
  • Ratcliffe and Ryan Merkley both reached the 50-point mark this season.
  • Garrett McFadden’s two assists gives him 100 career points.

Kitchener Rangers 6 (OT) at Guelph Storm 5 – Status: Final OT
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 – Sleeman Centre

Kitchener 4 0 1 1 – 6
Guelph 1 2 2 0 – 5

1st Period-1, Kitchener, Mascherin 35 (Gentles, Meireles), 1:06. 2, Kitchener, Llewellyn 23   8:27 (PP PS). 3, Kitchener, Yantsis 3 (Roberts, Carter), 10:32. 4, Kitchener, Carter 14 (Damiani, Garreffa), 14:02. 5, Guelph, Ratcliffe 25 (Samorukov, Schnarr), 18:49 (PP). Penalties-Burns Kit (holding), 4:08; Di Perna Kit (delay of game), 5:43; Smith Gue (cross checking), 8:02; Seitz Kit (hooking), 17:33.

2nd Period-6, Guelph, Hotchkiss 13 (Sicoly), 8:44. 7, Guelph, Ralph 8 (Samorukov, Hotchkiss), 19:21. Penalties-Gentles Kit (check from behind, roughing), 6:01; Sicoly Gue (roughing), 6:01; Merkley Gue (holding), 12:36.

3rd Period-8, Guelph, Merkley 11 (McFadden, Ratcliffe), 14:26 (PP). 9, Guelph, Ratcliffe 26 (McFadden, Merkley), 17:22. 10, Kitchener, Bunnaman 35 (Di Perna, Roberts), 18:26. Penalties-McHugh Kit (playing w/broken st.), 14:54; Rhodes Gue (interference), 14:54.

OT Period-11, Kitchener, McHugh 13   1:39. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Kitchener 11-7-9-1-28. Guelph 15-13-8-1-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Kitchener 1 / 3; Guelph 2 / 5.
Goalies-Kitchener, Opilka 13-13-1-1 (37 shots-32 saves). Guelph, Popovich 7-16-1-1 (28 shots-22 saves).
A-4,021
Referees-Darcy Burchell (38), Aaron Neely (15).
Linesmen-Jean-Francois Menard (52), Dave Pfohl (96).

3 STARS

  1. GUE Isaac Ratcliffe
  2. KIT Cole Carter
  3. GUE Ryan Merkley
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