WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES – GAME 6:
KITCHENER 4 – SAULT STE. MARIE 3 – OT
(Series tied 3-3)
The Western Conference Championship Series is headed to Game 7 in Sault Ste. Marie on Monday night after Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Kole Sherwood lifted the Kitchener Rangers to a 4-3 overtime win on Sunday before a capacity crowd of 6,975.
Down 3-1 in the third, Greyhounds forward Taylor Raddysh (11, 12) scored twice in the final five minutes to knot the score at three before Sherwood stepped up 6:48 into overtime, crashing down the middle to push a puck through the legs of Matthew Villalta and keep the Rangers alive.
“After the second period, going into the third tied we just said that, six weeks ago if we were told that we’d be in that situation against that team, at home, tie game going into the third we would’ve taken it,” explained Rangers head coach Jay McKee. “The message was similar going into overtime – play loose, play without fear and this is an opportunity that we want, at home, it’s one shot where you can put everyone on their feet and he (Sherwood) was lucky enough to do that.”
Rangers goaltender Mario Culina was a difference-maker, turning aside 45 shots as Kitchener was outdone on the shot clock 48-38.
Defenceman Mac Hollowell (2) opened the scoring for Sault Ste. Marie on a solo rush 8:21 into the first period. The Rangers would draw even when Givani Smith (11) jammed a puck over the goal line with 4:32 left in the second, sending the game into the third period tied at one.
Joseph Garreffa (8) and Adam Mascherin (9) struck in the third as Mascherin put the Rangers ahead 3-1 with 5:36 remaining, setting the stage for Raddysh to tie things up with a pair of quick ones and send the game to OT.
Raddysh’s tying goal came on a six-on-four with the Hounds on the power play and goaltender Villalta on the bench for the extra attacker.
“We put ourselves in a situation that we wanted to be in with a two goal lead,” McKee said, describing his team’s setback in the third period. “We’re fully aware that they have great firepower. They’re a team that has the ability to come back from two or more goals. We wanted to be tight, we loosened up a little bit in the d-zone and then when a team of that ability has a six-on-four there’s a very good chance they’re scoring.”
The home team has won all six games of the series to this point and Greyhounds head coach Drew Bannister comes away from Game 6 confident that his club can continue that trend as Sault Ste. Marie embarks on a second straight Game 7 Monday night.
“It’s disappointing to lose that hockey game but I thought we played really well,” he said. “We did a lot of good things today. The one thing that we weren’t able to do is capitalize on our chances which we had a lot of.
“We’ve been in this situation before in the last series,” he continued. “We’re going to a place that we’re very comfortable and we’ve played well in and we’re just going to continue to build on what we’ve done in the last two games.”
What’s sure to be a thrilling Game 7 showdown between two Western Conference titans gets underway on Monday night at 7:07pm at the Essar Centre as the Rangers and Greyhounds put it all on the line.
POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE: