The 2019-20 Ontario Hockey League season is underway, and the Kitchener Rangers have completed 11 games in their 57th season in franchise history. The red and blue from Kitchener currently holds second in the Midwest Division with a 5-2-2-2 record.
Last season, the Rangers maintained a .500 pace for the majority of 2018-19. Their final 20 games had hopes high among the team’s faithful heading into the post season, but the Rangers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual OHL champions, the Guelph Storm.
It was not an easy offseason for the Rangers management staff, a drawn out wait for 2019 first-round pick Francesco Pinelli to officially sign his agreement. Follow that with the announcement that forward Joseph Garreffa would not be returning for his overage season, leaving what was supposed to be a three-headed monster was left as a two-headed threat. However, the Rangers have not let that detour them from their quest to success.
Rangers Acquire Ingham
During the offseason, Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie set out to secure a number one goaltender for 2019-20. So, Kitchener acquired goaltender Jacob Ingham from the Mississauga Steelheads. Ingham, a Los Angeles Kings sixth-round draft choice and Barrie, Ontario native brings his wealth of experience to Kitchener, and he’s proven his worth early.
Ingham was a second-round selection of the Steelheads in 2016. He was immediately a staple in the Steelheads’ net, playing 31 games his rookie season. He has appeared in the playoffs every season since being drafted.
In the first 11 games with Kitchener, Ingham has started nine, posting an overall record of 5-1-2-1. Facing over 350 shots through 11 games, the Barrie native has amassed a 3.15 goals against average and .919 save percentage.
The Rangers netminder ranks ninth-best among OHL goalies in goals against average. He holds second in total shots faced and total saves made, ranking fourth in save percentages among goalies with a minimum of seven games played. He has easily been one of the best goalies in the league, and that will need to continue for the Rangers to succeed.
Rangers Finding Ways to Produce
The 13th-overall pick in the 2019 OHL Draft, Pinelli has played phenomenal in his first 11 games of the season. The Stoney Creek, Ontario native ranks third on the team in points with 11. He is also among the top-10 in rookie scoring leaders.
Johnathan Yantsis and Riley Damiani look poised to have strong seasons. Yantsis is looking to hit the 50-goal plateau for the second consecutive season. Damiani has tallied 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points in 10 games played.
The addition of forward Liam Hawel from the defending champion Storm has also proven to be well worth the price. Hawel is currently leading the team in points and assists, with 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points in 11 games.
Michael Vukojevic has provided stability among the defensemen, recording 4 assists through the first 11 games. He will be a leader among the rearguards as the season continues.
Ville Ottavainen, the Rangers’ 2019 first-round CHL import draft selection, has been a welcomed addition to the blue line. He has three goals and five assists for eight points in 11 games this season.
Rangers’ Success Hinges on Ingham
To close, the amount of success and the length of the Rangers’ run to the playoffs will be based on the play of their recently acquired netminder. Ingham will need to play his best hockey if the team intends to make a push for the finals.
Now, a lot needs to happen in that time for those thoughts to become reality, but as the season is in full swing, its already quite apparent. The early signs of production are positive. Young players making an impact and returning players picking up where they left off last season is outstanding. The Rangers give up a ton of shots each game, and Ingham will need to be his best to keep them in games.