Game Over, Season Ends for Rangers
Rangers bow out of playoffs after game five loss to Windsor Spitfires
One last blown lead spelled the end of the Kitchener Rangers’ postseason run.
Needing a win to stay alive in the playoffs, the Rangers couldn’t maintain their advantage after opening the scoring and fell 3-2 to the Windsor Spitfires in game five of their Western Conference Semi-Final series. The top-seeded Spitfires took down Kitchener 4-1 and move on to the conference finals against the Flint Firebirds.
While the Rangers were definite underdogs facing off against a Windsor squad which finished the season 28 points ahead of them, they had plenty of opportunities throughout the series to take control. Kitchener struck first in all five games and held two-goal leads after the first period in both games four and five.
Winger Matthew Sop put the Rangers on the board first in game five, notching his first of the playoff just over five minutes into the contest. Sop’s tally was followed up by defenceman Ty Hollet also adding his first of the postseason with a little over three minutes remaining in the period.
Just as in game four though, the Rangers faltered after the opening 20 minutes. Windsor carried the second period, peppering Kitchener netminder Pavel Cajan and ultimately outshooting the Rangers 20-4 in the frame. Louka Henault beat Cajan midway through the second to cut the lead to a single goal.
A blindsiding penalty to Reid Valarde left Kitchener shorthanded near the end of the period and while they successfully killed off the penalty, Windsor’s Michael Renwick struck just moments after it expired, leaving the game tied heading into the final 20 minutes.
The Rangers once again found themselves down a man midway through the third with Navrin Mutter in the box for holding. This time, they couldn’t hold off the Windsor power play, Andrew Perrott put one past Cajan to take the lead for the Spitfires.
Despite pulling Cajan with over two-and-a-half minutes remain and icing an extra attacker, the Rangers couldn’t solve Windsor goalie Mathias Onuska in the game’s waning moments. Unable to force overtime, the clock ran out on Kitchener’s season.
The 2021-22 campaign will go down as a mixed bag for the Rangers. They struggled in the regular season and hovered around .500 on the year. Come the playoffs however, they were able to pull off a major upset of their division rival London Knights in the first round. Kitchener couldn’t maintain their momentum for a true Cinderella run though, as the blown leads against Windsor proved too detrimental to their cause.
There will be some new faces featured in next year’s campaign, as several Rangers will depart after aging out of the OHL. Leading scorer Michael Petizian and defenceman Justin Nolet, as well as Mutter have reached the end of their time with the Rangers.
While their veteran presence is likely to be missed, the strides taken in the playoffs this year can spark hope for the 2022 season in the players coming back.