Brantford Bulldogs overcame a three-goal deficit in the third period to defeat the Kitchener Rangers 5-4 in a shootout during Ontario Hockey League (OHL) preseason action on Wednesday, September 6, 2023.
Over 500 fans came out to see their adopted OHL team battle the Rangers at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Complex and the Bulldogs left them with something to cheer about as they played their best hockey in the third period to earn their first home win in their new city.
Kitchener came out quickly to start the game, getting a quality scoring chance less than a minute into the opening period. The Rangers continued to attack, using strong puck pressure and forecheck to keep the Bulldogs on their heels. Kitchener opened the scoring less than five minutes in after sustained pressure in the offensive zone. The Rangers continued to push the pace increasing their lead to 2-0 after a short-handed goal just one minute later.
The Bulldogs responded in short order, scoring their first goal 90 seconds later when LW Marek Vanacker buried a pass past Rangers goalie Luca DiFelice to cut the deficit to one with 12 minutes left in the opening frame. Brantford had a glorious chance to tie things at two when they were awarded their second powerplay of the period but couldn’t muster much offence as the Rangers killed it off with ease. Brantford had two more powerplay opportunities in the period but couldn’t capitalize as the Rangers held on to the 2-1 lead after 20 minutes.
The Bulldogs slow start carried over into the second stanza as Kitchener spent most of the opening two minutes on the attack in the Bulldogs zone but Brantford goalie Tristan Malboeuf stood tall to keep his team in the game. Brantford finally found their offence six minutes into the second, getting offensive zone pressure and several quality scoring chances but they couldn’t beat DiFelice.
Both teams continued to battle through the middle stages of the period before Kitchener regained their two-goal advantage, scoring on their first powerplay of the game to take a 3-1 lead into the second intermission.
Both teams came out tentatively to start the final frame but two minutes in the Bulldogs were awarded their fifth powerplay of the game but couldn’t capitalize on their chances. Brantford then went on the defensive as they went on the penalty kill after Ben Bujold was sent off for tripping. The Bulldogs killed it off as the team battled in the neutral zone for the next several minutes.
With just over ten minutes left to go, Kitchener increased their lead when Rangers D Simon Motew buried a shot from a bad angle past Malboeuf to give the visitors a commanding 4-1 lead. The goal, combined with their sixth powerplay, gave the Bulldogs life as they capitalized with the man advantage when centre Jake O’Brien scored to cut the Rangers lead to 4-2. Brantford continued to attack and got within one just a minute later when RW Dylan Tsherna beat DiFelice to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Kitchener responded with some offensive zone pressure after giving up two goals in under one minute but the Bulldogs had the momentum. With just over three minutes remaining, the Bulldogs tied things at four when LW Florian Xhekaj found a puck in the crease and tapped it home to even things up.
Both teams battled hard down the stretch but regulation ended with the teams tied at four so the Rangers and Bulldogs headed to a shootout to decide the preseason game. Matthew Sop and Carson Rehkopf scored for the Rangers while Cole Brown, Marek Vanacker and Patrick Thomas scored for the Bulldogs, giving Brantford their first win in their new hometown.