Jonathan Yantsis and Greg Meireles were Attack killers last year as the Kitchener Rangers won the season series 6-2.
On Friday night Riley Damiani wielded the big stick as his hat trick led the Rangers to a 6-4 win over the Owen Sound Attack inside the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
Meireles added a goal and two assists in his first game back from an extended look at the professional ranks.
The Rangers came back from a two-goal deficit in the first period as the Attack were buzzing off the bus.
Getting off on the right foot is something Attack captain Aidan Dudas is keying in on this season.
“We don’t change the way we’ve been playing . . . high tempo, high pace . . . it doesn’t matter if we’re going to Kitchener, London, Flint, or anywhere in the OHL. You’ve got to keep the same mindset,” he said before practice Wednesday.
By the 10:19 mark of the opening frame, Owen Sound had a 2-0 lead on the scoreboard and led by a 13-2 margin on the shot clock.
Attack rookie Deni Goure opened the scoring. The Grande Pointe, Ont. native planted himself at the side of the goal and was the recipient of a drive-and-pass by linemate Adam McMaster. Goure shot the puck up and over Rangers goaltender Jacob Ingham for his first-career goal.
Kaleb Pearson then scored on the Attack’s red-hot power play. The St. Marys native tipped home a Carter Robertson wrist shot sifted through from the point. The Attack’s man-advantage unit is now operating at a 45.5 per cent clip.
The Attack were rocking-and-rolling on the road. They fired 21 shots on Ingham after 20 minutes of play.
“There are a lot of eager players here. There are guys fighting for spots on the Top-6, fighting to stay in the lineup. With that type of energy or motivation, it can go a long way,” Dudas said Wednesday. “It’s good to go in and set the tone and let them know we’re not a pushover team. We’re going to be right with them.”
The backslide started with Diamani’s first goal via a breakaway. Rangers d-man Justin MacPherson spotted Diamani breaking down the middle of the ice. The centre took MacPherson’s pass and split Owen Sound’s defence before deking Mack Guzda into the yellow seats.
From there the Rangers scored three unanswered tallies in the second period to take a 4-2 lead.
Rookie Francesco Pinelli scored his fifth of the young season.
Damiani’s second tally came at the end of a pretty passing play.
Ryan Stepien then scored his second goal of the season as Kitchener’s third line got into the action.
The Attack never recovered.
“It’s a huge rivalry, not an easy building to play in going in on a Friday night,” Attack head coach Al Letang said Wednesday.
Daylon Groulx opened the scoring in the third period as the Attack took advantage of a bad turnover. Andrew Perrott caught an outlet pass and found Groulx all alone in front of Ingham. The Fort Erie native made no mistake on his fourth marker of the season to bring the Attack back within a goal.
Then the back-breaker.
Just six seconds later Mack Guzda was victimized on a tip shot in the high-slot by Meireles as the Rangers rushed the Attack zone off the centre-ice draw. The puck trickled through the goaltender and into the net.
Damiani completed the hat trick as the Attack’s defence broke down allowing Meireles to find a seam down low for a chapeau-tossing tap-in.
Barret Kirwin scored late as the two teams looked for the exits.
Guzda stopped 31 of 37 shots on the evening while Ingham turned away 37 of the Attack’s 41 shots on goal.
Owen Sound gets right back at it Saturday night as they’ll invite Scenic City native Connor Roberts and the Flint Firebirds to the Bayshore. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Roberts had a goal and an assist as the Firebirds topped the Guelph Storm 4-3 Friday night. He now has three goals and four helpers in five games.