It's not a winning record, but the Rangers have gone a long way in making their regular-season all-time record at the John Labatt Centre in London respectable during this season. It's also the first time the Rangers have had a winning record against the Knights over the course of a season since the season when the Rangers won the Memorial Cup - coincidentally with a 4-2 record, however the Knights were the ones claiming the victory in the meaningless end of the season game with backup netminders starting for each team. The Rangers regular season record went to 4-8 over the four seasons that London has been playing in the biggest home rink in the entire Western Conference. This game was meaningless, the Knights made that very evident, with a lengthy presentation prior to the game. As is London tradition during the tenure of the Hunters, the team and fans honour the graduating overagers prior to the game. Each overage had a chance to speak and each overager didn't see ice during the game. Hunter and Reddiker (injured) didn't dress, star netminder: Adam Dennis was dressed by spent the night on the bench tending to door duties. There were notable other scratches to the Knights' lineup on the blueline, same for the Rangers who elected to go without Gyenes or Fraser only dressing 5 defenders, with Machabee being the 5th defender. The Knights also gave easy nights to Schremp and Bolland who only saw power play time but did see the ice often as the Rangers helped by giving the Knights 11 opportunities. Late in the game Schremp and Bolland started to see a regular shift.
The Rangers as DeBoer stated at the end of
the 2004-2005 season in Owen Sound with a very short bench were still playing
to win. It showed in the early going. At one point they had
an 11-1 lead on the shotclock. Something that isn't too out of the
ordinary for the Knights who clinched the Hamilton Spectator trophy for
the top finishing team during the regular season, they rely on a combination
of keeping shots to the outside and allowing their two-time OHL champion
netminder room and time to make to stops. Adam Dennis wasn't involved
in this game, and despite a severe lack of playing time this season for
his understudy: Steve Mason, Mason has performed when called upon.
He doesn't get to play too often - but when he's out on the ice practicing
he is the beneficiary of playing against some of the sharpest shooters
in the OHL, in Schremp and Bolland who battled it out all night long for
the team scoring lead. A win for the Knights would give them a third
consecutive 50-win season, which could have been an OHL-record. The
Rangers had other ideas in mind and they may not have known it, but they
did establish a new franchise record for road wins with 24. That
mark also ties them for second in the OHL all-time, only behind the Knights
who established their record just one season ago with 28 as they re-wrote
the entire OHL record book.
The Rangers got off to a quick start on the power play. Victor Oreskovich who had 5 points during the previous game but failed to score. Oreskovich opened the scoring with a flukey bounce using the London defender as a screen to shoot through, his shot went into the bottom corner on the tall rookie netminder. Later in the period with the Rangers on the power play yet again, Matt Lashoff fired a shot on goal with several players in front creating traffic Applebaum was there with the chip-shot deflection over the arm of Mason who went down and really had no chance on this opportunity. The Rangers penalty kill, that entered advertised as best in the business lived up to it's billing in this one frustrating the Knights without the pressence of big netminder Dan Turple. Mark Packwood was sharp in the Rangers' net when called upon early in the game. At the opposite end Steve Mason was memorizing at times, he simply refused to allow the Rangers to gain a three-goal lead on the home town Knights. After the two goal lead was gained by the Rangers, the matchup reverted to it's usual form. Hard-hitting, rough stuff after the whistle and some air tight defensive play at times. Mark Packwood entered the third period having allowed zero goals through three periods in the JLC (one of those occuring in the game 3 blow-out loss to the Knights during the postseason). That trend, unfortunately would not continue.
The second game within a game got underway at the 48 minute mark. David Bolland's shot handcuffed Packwood and no one seemed to be able to find the rebound. And Rob Schremp chipped the puck into the top corner bringing the Knights back to within a goal, the goal temporarily tied him with Bolland for goal scoring lead, he scored only one second after a two-man advantage had expired. But before the goal announcement was even complete the crowd's volume took a nose dive, Victor Oreskovich, found the back of the net once again on Mason to restore the Rangers lead only 37 seconds later. David Bolland would again bring the Knights back to within striking distance, only to have David Lomas reply to restore the Rangers' two goal bulge. Late in the game the Rangers would be forced to kill another two man advantage. This time they fell one second short, and yielded their own power play goal of the night. Robbie Schremp scored in the final minute with the Knights enjoying a 6-on-4 advantage with their netminder pulled. The final 30 seconds were absolute insanity, Mark Packwood was bowled over and only in the final seconds the Rangers would finally clear the puck. Unfortunately was took place after the buzzer was a rather sad display of sportsmanship on behalf of both teams. Both teams started pushing each other around as the things threatened to get out of control. Fortunately cooler head prevailed but it was probably a sign of things to come should the two teams collide in the OHL Western final.