They're tops in the OHL, and for each season starting in 2003-'04, the Knights have been the top of the OHL standings at season's end. They're the only team that has enjoyed more regular season success than the Rangers' in recent season, and as such, the two teams have become intense rivals. With a glut of star graduations from each side, the rivalry has lost some bite, however there's no questioning some of the hatered and unsaid mutual respect that the two teams have for one another. After just 11 games, the Knights had 60 goals, and have surprised even the most knowledgable of hockey reports and fans with their scoring prowess, predominantly led by youngsters who go by names like Kane, Gagner, and McCrae and wear the numbers 88, 89 and 90. They haven't been one of the better defensive clubs in the league as they were in the previous season, but this season, the Rangers' lost their towering defenders, and their huge netminder. Yet, somehow, they held the league's top offense down to one goal, no mean feat. For the first time this season, super-rookie Sam Gagner was held off of the scoresheet, he had points in each of his 11 games thus far, this year totalling 33 points overall. It spoke to an effort that started with a strong forecheck, continued with good passing and then finished off with the Rangers' being tidy in their own zone, and some solid netminding from 19-year-old John Murray.
The game started with controversy surrounding
the Rangers' and one of their star forwards Mike Duco, his status was in
doubt for most of the day, with the threat that the league might suspend
him after a end-board collision resulted in some extensive injuries to
Generals' defense Matt Seegmiller. Early in the first, the decision,
not to suspend Duco was made redundant as Duco himself was injured along
the boards and never was seen from again. Unfortunate for the Rangers'
in the obvious fashion that the team may struggle without Duco's services,
but fortunate in the way that it removed an excuse or crutch for the team
in the fact that Duco was not suspended. The team couldn't claim
that they might have performed better if. . . . Despite the heated
rivalry, only 5,500+ fans took in the game, and of those a lacklustre showing
by the usual diehard Knights' fans as well. It hardly took away from
the atmosphere which may have been at a season-high with fans serenading
Knights' head coach Dale Hunter with chants of "Hun-ter - Hun-ter" in the
latter stages of the third period. For the Knights it would be the
second time in a row where a division rival would defeat them by a score
of three goals. The Knights having taken a 5-2 defeat to the Owen
Sound Attack on Friday night on home ice, in their previous inter-divisional
matchup. And much like that game, the Knights' enthusiam and potent
forecheck would be good for early scoring, but whatever reason it was insustainable
through 60 minutes as the CHL 3rd ranked London Knights lost for the second
time in three games. Kitchener, native David Jarram would pot the
lone Knights' goal just over 5 minutes into the first period, with some
odd bounces around the blueline, combined with some Rangers' forwards a
little guilty in trying to vacate the zone a little quickly would turn
into a Knights' goal, after some tired Rangers got trapped on the ice and
could not make it to the bench for a much needed change.
The Rangers were were the slow team in the first period, unlike in London, and as a result, the Knights had more opportunities on the power play. Something that you definitely want to keep away from the Knights, already this season the Knights have managed to achieve 6 power play goals in one game, that coming at the expense of the Windsor Spitfires. It wasn't that the Rangers weren't skating in the first period, but London seemed to have an edge in speed. The one event that helped the Rangers most during the opening period, is Justin Azevedo's bit of fortune. Steve Mason had a slight brain cramp behind the net just after the Knights had taken the lead. Mason's pass was intercepted and from a horrible angle with little if any time to spare, Azevedo fired the puck into the gapping net, bringing the Rangers back even. Perhaps discouraged by their misfortunes in the opening period, one where the Knights had probably outplayed the Rangers, the Knights slowed down their skating game, and their blueliners started to become victims of an intense Rangers' forecheck, suddenly the tide was turning. Kitchener's breakout cranked it up a notch too, the passes were crisp, quick and the team seemed to explode over the blueline. The combination of flat-footed Knights, and speedy Rangers inevitably led to Knights infractions, including three consecutive to start the second period. The Rangers provided unable to score until a two-man advantage presented itself midway through the period.
Victor Oreskovich provided the fly-by screen on Mason and Jakub Kindl's point blast went right through, infact the timing of the goal, couldn't have been better as there was only 9 seconds left in the first penalty, and therefore the Rangers still had lots of time remaining on the second penalty to add to their newly acquired lead, they couldn't, but the death blow may have been struck by Kevin Henderon who put the puck on goal, and then refused to give up on his own rebound, pouding at the puck until it went over the line with just 11 seconds left in the second period. In the third period a familiar face provided some insurance for the Rangers, Matt Halischuk drove to the crease and wandered through finally depositing the puck past Steve Mason, for the fourth straight game inwhich Halischuk had scored. Late in regulation things started to get ugly after Jordan Foreman landed a big hip check on Matt Pepe and then was greated by Brian Soso who promptly delivered a beating. Minutes later, Jordan Shine would gain a quick knockout over Kitchener sophomore: Adam Zamec. After being stuck at one goal for seemingly an eternity, centre Justin Azevedo bumped his goal total up to 2, he was the first star for his hard work all night long. Brian Soso, in addition to a minor for instigating was also given a game misconduct.