And as usual, Jeremy Morin sparked the Rangers.
Morin, an Atlanta Thrashers prospect, scored the game’s final three goals to seal a 5-2 win in front of 6,384 at Kitchener Memorial Auditorium – the Rangers’ eighth win in eight games against the Otters.
Morin’s second hat trick against the Otters this season – he scored the final three goals in a 6-1 win Jan. 18 – broke open a 2-2 tie late in the third period. He has burned the Otters for 15 goals and 20 points in the eight games. His first of two straight power-play goals snapped the tie with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left.
Morin, pictured above, scored his second power-play goal less than two minutes later for a 4-2 Rangers’ lead. His empty-net goal with 21 seconds left capped Kitchener’s 40th win and secured the No. 3 seed in the OHL’s Western Conference playoffs. Morin has 45 goals on the season, which is tied for fourth in the league.
Teammate Tyler Randell has only nine goals this season. But he scored Kitchener’s first two goals.
His first goal tied the score at 1 early in the second. Mike Cazzola’s 35th goal of the season handed the Otters a 2-1 lead with 4:05 left in the second. But Randell responded 42 seconds later to tie the score.
Then Morin took over the tight game, sending the Otters (31-27-5-2) to their third straight loss despite goaltender Adam Courchaine’s 41-save performance. David Shields scored Erie’s other goal. Rookie Brady Austin received a game misconduct for removing his helmet before a fight with defenseman Branden Morris.
The Otters remain seventh in the West, one point behind sixth-place Saginaw and four behind No. 5 Sault Ste. Marie. Plymouth’s 3-0 win against Sault Ste. Marie ended Erie’s hopes of capturing the fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
- Victor Fernandes
Middle of the pack
The battle for the Nos. 4-8 seeds in the Western Conference:
(games through Thursday)
No. Team GL Record Pts.
4. x-Plymouth 4 37-25-0-2 76
5. x-S.S. Marie 4 34-25-1-4 73
6. x-Saginaw 4 32-26-4-2 70
7. x-Erie 3 31-27-5-2 69
8. Guelph 4 31-29-3-1 66
9. Owen Sound 3 27-31-4-3 61
GL – games left; x-clinched playoff berth
Note: Top eight teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs.