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Kitchener Rangers extinguish Flint in season opener

Joe Garreffa, Greg Meireles, Jonathan Yantsis and Eric Guest all had three-point nights for the Rangers
Rangers Jonathan Yantsis
Mark Pare/KitchenerToday

Don’t tell this Kitchener Rangers (1-0-0-0) team they’re missing a scoring touch from last year.

Yes, they lost many of their high-level goal scorers.  But this edition did not waste any time silencing any doubters with a 6-2 season-opening win over the Flint Firebirds (0-1-0-0) at The Aud Friday night.

"It was good.  I think we got better as the game went on.  I think having six guys playing their first game, there's definitely some nerves there early on for them," says Rangers Head Coach Jay McKee, "I think from the first period on, we just got better and better."

And it was the veterans stepping up to get the job done.

It took just 97 seconds for Jonathan Yantsis to skate down the right wing and snap home his first of the year.

Yantsis says it was great to get the monkey off the back early on.

"Everyone saying that we lost all our goal scorers and we put up six tonight so it feels pretty good," he said, "With the loss of goals, there's more opportunity for guys that didn't have as much ice or didn't put up as many points to step up and score goals."

Things did slow down a bit through the majority of the opening frame, though Rangers starter Luke Richardson had to make a couple dandy saves toward the end of the period.

Flint seemed to pick up some momentum to start the second, but the Rangers capitalized on their first chance of the period on a pretty passing play.  Dallas Stars prospect Riley Damiani finished it off to make it 2-0.

The Firebirds continued to fire shots on net with a few power play chances afterwards, but just couldn’t beat Richardson.

It opened things up for the home team, as Joe Garreffa converted on a feed in the slot at 7:49 to extend the lead to three goals.

Hunter Holmes would end the shutout bid late in the period, but Greg Meireles tickled the twine on a wide open chance to send the Rangers to the locker room with a 4-1 lead after the second.

Early in the third, Yantsis deposited his second of the night alone in front and Garreffa did the same at 6:26 --- showing off some silky smooth hands in close in the process --- to make it a 6-1 game.

Jack Wismer rounded out the scoring for Flint, off a deflection with 1:42 left in regulation.

So it seems they may have answered the question on who will put up offense, though it's early to speak considering it's only the first game.

McKee says it gives confidence for many of his players.

"It's great to put up numbers early on and get guys breaking the bubble on the points and gives them a little bit of confidence but I think we've talked as a team about scoring by committee," he said.

"We're a team that doesn't have the Adam Mascherin or Connor Bunnaman, the guys that you know are going to put up 30, 40 goals so we need to rely on having everybody going with that high level of compete and being tenacious and really scoring by committee and having our D up in the play as well."

"At times, it may look risky and it might backfire, but tonight it certainly didn't."

Richardson made 23 saves in the win, while Emanuel Vella stopped 16 in the loss for Flint and was pulled with about 10 minutes to go in favour of Luke Cavallin.

The Rangers get the next seven days off before they play host to the Ottawa 67’s next Friday night, September 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Before that game though, there will be a special tribute to longtime broadcaster Don Cameron.

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