KITCHENER – Curtis Meighan’s first-ever OHL playoff goal at 5:00 of the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and the Kitchener Rangers defeated the Plymouth Whalers, 4-2, in Game 6 of the best-of-seven Ontario Hockey League Western Conference semifinal series played before 5,876 at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
The series is tied at three games each. Plymouth and Kitchener meet Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. at in the seventh and deciding game of the series. The winner of the game advances to the OHL Western Conference finals against London.
Ryan Murphy (first of the playoffs) and Ben Thomson (third) scored the other Kitchener goals. Alex Aleardi (sixth) and Tom Wilson (seventh) scored the Plymouth goals, both of which came in the second period to bring the Whalers back from a 2-0 deficit. Rickard Rakell assisted on both Plymouth goals.
Although the Rangers utilize Michael Catenacci, Cody Sol, Tobias Rieder and Murphy more than any other player of their roster, it was Meighan who scored the game-winning goal, tipping Ben Fanelli’s shot from the left point past Plymouth goaltender Scott Wedgewood.
Wedgewood stopped 40-of-43 shots for the Whalers as the game’s third star. Kitchener goaltender John Gibson stopped 41-of-43 Plymouth shots.
Kitchener built their 2-0 lead on a pair of power play goals. While working on a 5-on-3 power play early in the first period, Murphy wired a snap shot from the hash marks past Wedgewood.
Although Kitchener had the early edge on the shots in the first period because of the power play, the Whalers came back over the second half of the period and were outshot by just a 17-16 margin.
The Rangers struck again on the power play at 1:18 of the second period and - with Murphy doing much of the skating – found Thomson in front, who scored on a re-direct in front of Wedgewood.
Trailing 2-0, the Whalers cut the Ranger led in half at 6:32 when Rakell snapped a shot towards the Kitchener goal and it was redirected by Aleardi, who got a piece of the puck while being checked. Gibson also got a large piece of the puck, but it trickled over the line.
Wilson continued his good work in the playoffs in tying the game at 11:51. Gibson made the original stop on Rakell’s shot from the left circle, but the puck pinballed to Wilson on the right side of the goal and he made no mistake.
That set the stage for Meighan’s game-winner.
Trialing by a goal in the final minutes, Wedgewood was pulled, but Sol scored on the empty Plymouth net with 30 seconds left in the period.
Kitchener outshot Plymouth, 44-43.
Tuesday’s Game 7 is the 11th time the Whalers have played a Game 7 in their playoff history. The Whalers are 5-5 in previous Game Sevens. Plymouth eliminated Kitchener last season in seven games in the OHL Western Conference quarterfinals.