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Rangers hold off Battalion

KITCHENER, Ont. — Riley Damiani’s early third-period goal proved the winner as the Kitchener Rangers held off a North Bay Battalion rally for a 4-3 victory in Ontario Hockey League exhibition action Sunday.

Rickard Hugg had one goal and one assist and Joseph Serpa and Greg Meireles also scored for Kitchener, which hosted its inaugural Preseason Showcase. Goaltender Luke Richardson made 39 saves.

Justin Brazeau scored two goals and added an assist for North Bay, and Matthew Struthers provided one goal and one assist. Goaltender Christian Purboo faced 33 shots as the Troops completed the showcase with one win and two losses.

The Battalion defeated the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Moncton Wildcats 5-4 Saturday after a 3-0 setback Friday to the Saginaw Spirit, which finished the round robin with three wins. Kitchener won two games, while Moncton suffered three losses.

Damiani gave Kitchener a 4-1 lead with an unassisted goal at 5:02 of the final period before the Battalion battled back in effort to tie it up.

Brazeau drove off the left wing and tucked the puck around Richardson at 5:45 for a fourth goal of the preseason before Struthers struck with the teams skating four a side at 13:44, moving past defender Arber Xhekaj from the left side for the tally.

The Troops, who had 20 shots in the period to five for Kitchener, failed to capitalize on a slashing call against Nick McHugh at 15:39, and Struthers was stopped after breaking behind the defence late in the 19th minute. Purboo left for a sixth attacker with 53 seconds to play, but the Battalion couldn’t get the equalizer.

Meireles shoveled the puck home on the power play at 2:48 for the only goal of the second period. Daniel Walker was off alone for roughing after taking exception to a check from behind into the boards on Adam McMaster.

Kitchener jumped to an early 2-0 lead, with Hugg scoring first at 6:50 of the opening period. After a turnover at the Battalion blue line, Hugg found himself alone behind the defence to slip the puck home on assists by Carter Tresoor and Jonathan Yantsis.

Serpa struck 23 seconds later on a screened shot from deep in the right circle off a rush, with Michael Vukojevic and Tresoor assisting.

The Battalion came to life later in the period, pressing the play before Brazeau connected at 16:58.

Assistant coaches Scott Wray and Adam Dennis ran the North Bay bench while head coach Stan Butler watched from a suite.

The Battalion has two exhibition games left before the season opener, hosting the Owen Sound Attack at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, and visiting Owen Sound the next day.

BATTALION BULLETS: Opening line combinations featured Struthers centring left winger Harrison Caines and right winger Brazeau, McMaster pivoting left winger Walker and Egor Postnov on right wing and Kyle Potts centring Cameron Peters on left wing and right winger Patrick Brown. Rhys Forhan centred left winger Kyle Jackson and right winger Andy Baker … For a second straight game, defence pairings saw Nick King with Simon Rose, Braden Henderson with David Maier and Pacey Schlueting with Payton Vescio … Joe Vrbetic backed up Purboo … The Battalion was without Travis Mailhot, Kurtis Evans, Brandon Coe, Brad Chenier, Luke Moncada and Christian Propp … Brazeau wore the captain’s ‘C’ while Struthers and Potts were the alternates … The Battalion went 0-for-2 on the power play. Kitchener was 1-for-3 … The Troops were to bus to North Bay immediately after the game … Jackson has been assigned to the Ottawa Senators of the junior A Central Canada Hockey League, reducing the Battalion roster to 25 … Four Troops are set to join National Hockey League rookie camps. Propp heads to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday, Struthers to the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday and Brazeau and Potts to the San Jose Sharks and New York Rangers respectively on Wednesday.

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