The Kitchener Rangers (27-20-2-2) once again found themselves in an early hole that they were unable to dig themselves out of, as the Flint Firebirds (24-21-1-3) skated to a 5-2 win in front of 3,211 fans at the Dort Federal Event Center on Saturday night.
The Firebirds led 1-0 less than a minute into the game and 2-0 under three minutes in, as the Rangers dropped their fourth straight game in regulation for the first time this season.
Luke Opilka (9-12-1-1) took the loss in goal for the Blueshirts, making 29 saves on 34 shots.
Garrett Forrest (9-10-1-1) picked up the win, stopping 27 of 29 Rangers shots.
Adam Mascherin (PPG) and Connor Bunnaman were the goal scorers for the Rangers, who look to snap their skid when they return home to the Aud to face the Niagara IceDogs on Tuesday, February 7th night at 7pm.
Alternate captain Darby Llewellyn noted the slump has been discouraging, but as players they’re holding themselves accountable and trying to make improvements as a unit moving forward.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating when things don’t go your way,” said Llewellyn, post-game. “We’re a young team this year and you can’t get mad at young players for making mistakes. As an older guy, you just have to push them along and try to make them, and yourself, better.”
The Firebirds got on the board just 57 seconds into the game to take a 1-0 lead, as Kole Sherwood registered his 26th goal of the season, from Alex Peters.
Less than two minutes later it was 2-0 Flint, as Nicholas Caamano scored his 24th of the campaign, assisted by Hunter Holmes and Dennis Busby at 2:44.
With the Firebirds a man down for cross-checking Mascherin would cut the lead in half, extending his team lead in goals to 31 to make it a 2-1 game. Joseph Garreffa and Giovanni Vallati assisted on the power play goal at 9:28 of the first period.
Caamano responded just two minutes later, restoring the two-goal lead for Flint, 3-1, from Jake Durham and Mathieu Henderson at 11:30 which rounded out first period scoring. The Firebirds outshot the Rangers in the opening period 19-7.
The Rangers managed to dictate the pace in the second period outshooting the Firebirds 15-4, but the score remained unchanged.
Maurizio Colella extended the Flint lead to 4-1 at the 3:52 mark of the third period, his 10th of the season, from Sherwood and Ryan Moore.
Bunnaman made it 4-2, scoring his 27th of the season at 6:41, with the lone assist to Mascherin.
It was as close as the Blueshirts would come to closing the gap, however, as Jake Durham’s sixth of the season made it 5-2 Flint, from Colella and the goaltender Forrest at 12:35.
Third period shots on goal favoured the Firebirds 11-7, and 34-29 overall.
Kitchener was 1-for-3 on the power play, while the Firebirds were 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
With two successful penalty kills, Heffner Lexus Toyota graciously donates another $20 to the Heffner Lexus Toyota PK Tally, which is at a running total of $1,580 in support of Sun Life Financial Kids in Gear.
Kole Sherwood (FLT) (3), Garrett Forrest (FLT) (2) and Nicholas Caamano (FLT) (1) were selected as the Three Stars of the Game.
Dylan Di Perna and Darby Llewellyn each wore an “A” and skated as alternates to Rangers captain Frank Hora.
The Rangers host the Niagara IceDogs for the lone time this season on Tuesday, February 7th at 7pm at the Aud.
Regular season tickets to Kitchener Rangers home games are $22.50 each for adults, $18.50 for children 12 and under, including HST and are available in person or by calling the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium Box Office or Centre in the Square (519) 578-1570 -or- 1-800-265-8977, or by purchasing online.