Joseph Garreffa’s 21st of the season was the overtime winner as the Kitchener Rangers (31-21-2-2) defeated the Saginaw Spirit (21-26-7-2), 5-4, in front of 3,574 fans at the Dow Event Center in Saginaw.
Dylan Di Perna had a three-point night with a trio of assists, as the Rangers had leads of 2-0, 3-2, and 4-3 but the Spirit continued to battle back throughout the night, including a late game-tying goal with just 37 seconds to play in regulation to send the game to overtime.
Luke Richardson (6-1-0-0) earned the win in goal, making 25 saves on 29 shots.
Evan Cormier (18-15-5-2) took the loss, surrendering five goals on 32 shots.
The Spirit were whistled down for hooking just 1:04 into the game to send the Rangers to the man advantage. Saginaw killed the penalty but shortly thereafter Kitchener opened the scoring, as Riley Damiani scored in his second straight game – a one-timer from the hashmarks – for his eighth of the season to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead at 3:03 of the first period. Di Perna and Frank Hora picked up the assists.
Michigan native Darby Llewellyn made the most of his return to his home state, scoring his 18th of the season at 11:37 of the first period, with Jake Henderson picking up the lone assist.
The Spirit cut the Rangers lead to 2-1 with just over five minutes to play in the opening frame, as DJ Busdeker tallied his seventh of the season, from Damien Giroux and Filip Hronek at 14:19.
The Rangers would take back-to-back penalties, giving the Spirit a 1:21 long 5-on-3 nearing the end of the period. Kitchener would kill off both calls, but the hosts would strike before the period was out as Max Grondin tied the game, 2-2, from Kris Bennett and Cole Coskey at 18:30.
First period shots on goal were 11-9 in favour of the Rangers.
Come the midway point of the second period Adam Mascherin restored the Kitchener lead, as his 33rd goal of the season was a power play marker to put the visitors up 3-2, from Cole Carter and Di Perna at 9:07.
The Spirit appeared to have once again tied the game, 3-3, with 3:35 to play in the second period, but the goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference on Richardson.
Second period shots on goal were 12-8 Kitchener for a two-period total of 23-17 Rangers.
Saginaw again tied the game, 3-3, on a goal by Brady Gilmour and this time it would count, assisted by Busdeker and Giroux at 4:47 but the stalemate was shortlived. Nick McHugh gave the Rangers back the lead, 4-3, just 42 seconds later, from Joseph Garreffa at 5:29.
With 37 seconds remaining in the game Hronek tied the game, 4-4, from Giroux to eventually send the game to overtime.
Garreffa’s OT winner came at 2:33, after finishing off a pretty pass from Di Perna with Llewellyn earning the second assist.
Shots on goal in the third period were 10-8 Saginaw, and 2-1 Spirit in overtime for a game total of 32-29 Kitchener.
Kitchener was 1-for-5 on the power play, while Saginaw was 0-for-4 with the man advantage.
Adam Mascherin, Di Perna and Llewellyn each wore an “A” and skated as alternates to Rangers captain Frank Hora.
The Rangers wrap up the long weekend on Monday when they play their third straight game on the road on Family Day, February 20th at 2pm when they take on Dawson Carty and the Hamilton Bulldogs at FirstOntario Centre.
The Blueshirts are back home on Thursday, February 23rd when they host division rival, the Owen Sound Attack, at 7pm.