Rangers outlast IceDogs
The Niagara IceDogs had every right to be disheartened Saturday night.
Minutes after dropping a tough 6-5 decision to the Kitchener Rangers at Meridian Centre, that frustration could be heard outside the team’s dressing room in the form of a few profanity-laced screams.
It was hard to blame them.
The loss was the team’s third in as many games, 15th in their last 16 games and dropped their overall record to 9-30-6-1, last in the Ontario Hockey League.
Niagara coach Ryan Kuwabara understands the frustration.
“It’s tough to come to the rink when we’re in the grind we’re in,” he said. “We’re right there. We’re definitely getting better but we still need to dial in and have some fun and enjoy the experience as much as you can. It’s tough for them to really understand what this is because their scope of life isn’t very big yet.
“When you have a little more time here and go through this you get to ride the high again. It’s something they hopefully will take with them and understand this feeling isn’t very fun.”
Kuwabara feels going through such a difficult experience could help the team down the road.
“There’s definitely years that are tough and you have to figure out how to battle through it. It’s one way to build some character,” he said. “The struggle is what makes you stronger and better usually in the end.”
The IceDogs began their week with a 5-3 loss at Peterborough Thursday followed by a 5-4 defeat at Hamilton Friday before Saturday’s one-goal loss.
“They put in a lot of time and they work hard,” Kuwabara said. “We’re right there and for whatever reason we just can’t seem to lock it down yet. It’s something we’ll have to work on this week.
“It’s just tough. We’re going through this right now and not able to close out some of these close games. It’s learning any little play, any little mistake could hurt you and unfortunately that’s what it seems to be in the last few games.”
Saturday, the IceDogs displayed more than enough offence, but once again struggled in their own end.
“I love our work ethic, I love our O-zone play at times and then sometimes our D-zone, we’re getting lost a little bit, giving up some chances, giving up some rush chances,” Kuwabara said. “It’s a combination of a lot of things. It’s something we have to dial in on our details a little tighter and I think we come away with at least four of the six points this weekend.”
The game was tied 2-2 after one before the Rangers took a 4-3 lead after two, setting the stage for a wild, entertaining finish.
Niagara tied the game at 4-4 on Declan Waddick’s 17th of the season at the halfway point, but the Rangers quickly answered to take a 5-4 lead. Carson Rehkopf’s 16th of the season at the 17:47 mark gave Kitchener an insurance marker they would need when Waddick netted his second at the 19:53 mark.
Josh Rosenzweig, who made a franchise-record 61 saves Thursday in Peterborough, was busy once again, facing 46 shots while making a number of spectacular saves.
“He gave us a chance to win. I talk to Rosey all the time. Just give us a chance to win and he did that in spades. Big saves, timely,” Kuwabara said.
The IceDogs took Sunday off before getting back to work for a week which sees them host Hamilton in a rare Tuesday home game before hitting the road for games in Owen Sound Wednesday, Ottawa Friday and Kingston next Sunday.
Kuwabara said it’s vital the coaching staff attempt to keep the players engaged by getting away from the norm at practice from time to time.
“You play music, you play small-area games,” he said. “You try to make it fun and get away from the structure part which can be monotonous because it’s something they hear all the time. To do little stuff differently and make it a little more fun, enjoy the game still, that’s stuff we have to work to keep doing.”
Ice cubes: Landon Cato (upper body), Owen Flores (lower body), Gerard Keane (broken wrist) and Anthony Agostinelli (concussion) did not dress for the IceDogs . . . Adrian Misaljevic, Antonio Pugliese, Trent Swick and Jackson Parsons were scratched for the Rangers.
Rangers 6 IceDogs 5
Niagara’s Josh Rosenzweig and Kitchener’s Francesco Pinelli.
Niagara IceDogs: Declan Waddick 2 (17, 18); Zakary Lavoie (18); Kevin He (14); David Jesus (2).
Kitchener Rangers: Francesco Pinelli (30); Carson Rehkopf (20); Matthew Sop (11); Michell Martin (10); Hunter Brzustewicz (4); Roman Scmidt (3).
Game stats: Shots on goal: By Niagara on Marcus Vandenberg (35), by Kitchener on Josh Rosenzwieg (46); Power plays: Niagara 1/2, Kitchener 0/1; Penalty minutes: Niagara 4, Kitchener 6.
Next up: The IceDogs are home Tuesday against Hamilton.
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