Knights keep rolling

The first Kitchener Ranger goal gets past London Knights goalie Adam Dennis during third period OHL...

The first Kitchener Ranger goal gets past London Knights goalie Adam Dennis during third period OHL playoff action Thursday, April 21, 2005 in London, Ont. (London Free Press/Derek Ruttan)

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

The next time, Kitchener Rangers right-winger David Clarkson should listen to London Knights coach Dale Hunter.

Although there are differing versions of what exactly was said off the London bench, Clarkson was in the penalty box when the Knights' Bryan Rodney scored the winning goal midway through the second period.

That gave the Knights a 3-0 lead and they hung on for a 3-2 win in the opening game of the OHL Western Conference final before 9,090 fans at the John Labatt Centre.

London remains unbeaten in nine postseason games, sweeping Guelph and Windsor, while Kitchener won eight in a row, beating Erie in six, then sweeping Owen Sound.

The Rangers, the most-penalized team in the regular season, spent most of the first 10 minutes in the penalty box.

The penalty parade resumed in the second period, with Clarkson going off for roughing at 10:21. Rodney scored 10 seconds later.

Hunter and Clarkson had already traded pleasantries, which upset Rangers coach Peter DeBoer enough to the point where he spoke to referee Mark Hicks.

"My one issue . . . was the continual baiting of our players by the London coaching staff from the bench," DeBoer said.

"You've got grown men challenging and calling 17- and 18- and 19-year-old kids names from the bench. And maybe I'm old-fashioned but there's no place in hockey for that."

Hunter denied DeBoer's allegation of name-calling but did admit to having advice for Clarkson.

"I was telling him he is too good a player to be slashing all the time," Hunter said. "He's a great player."

"He was yipping at the bench all the time (and) I told him he's too good to be yipping all the time, just play hockey."

Hunter said the Rangers eventually paid the price.

"They slash a lot and you see all the broken sticks out there, and the only way you can stop that is by scoring on the power play. That's how you get back when they're over-zealous."

Clarkson chose to stay out of it, saying: "I couldn't hear Hunter."

Dan Fritsche got things going for London at 17:44 of the first period. It was the first time in seven games Kitchener trailed.

David Bolland made it 2-0 at 9:04 of the second. Then Rodney scored 1:27 later.

The league's use of a video goal judge gave the Rangers their first goal at 9:47 of the third period.

Knights goalie Adam Dennis gloved a shot by Kitchener's Craig Voakes but the puck appeared to strike the top of the net just behind the crossbar.

Hicks requested a review and video goal judge Jim Lever, reviewing the play in the OHL "war room" at the league office in Scarborough, awarded a goal.

Michael Richards scored Kitchener's second goal with 1:40 left in regulation time and goalie Eric Pfligler on the bench for a sixth skater.

"Once we got comfortable playing in front of 9,000 fans, I thought we played pretty hard," Richards said, adding that killing all the early penalties wore them down in a building where the Knights have lost just once in 39 games.

"It's not the way you want to start a series, in the penalty box for six minutes of the first 10," he said. "(But) we've proven in tough buildings like Erie and Owen Sound that we can win on the road. Out of four here, hopefully we can win one."

Knights goalie coach Dave Rook said prior to the game that they'll likely continue alternating goaltenders, with Coleman starting Game 2 tomorrow night in Kitchener.

But afterward, Hunter said that may change today.

Dennis got the nod because he had a history when he was with Guelph of playing well against Kitchener. Those two clubs enjoy a healthy rivalry.

Dennis said the Rangers were storming his crease but it's something he is accustomed to.

"That's what Kitchener is known for. They just crash the net and it's like a pinball machine and you've got to battle through screens and stay on your toes because you don't know where the puck is going to go."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 3, Rangers 2

The series: London leads the best-of-seven OHL Western Conference final 1-0.

London goals: Danny Fritsche, David Bolland, Bryan Rodney

Kitchener goals: Craig Voakes, Michael Richards

Next: Game 2 is tomorrow in Kitchener at 7:30 p.m.


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