Knights get wakeup call

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

KITCHENER -- The intensity being displayed by the London Knights and the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL Western Conference final is being matched by the war of words off the ice. Minutes after the Knights saw their nine-game playoff winning streak snapped last night, coach Dale Hunter ripped the Rangers, accusing them of playing "goon hockey."

"It's not good for hockey," said Hunter, who amassed 3,565 penalty minutes in his NHL career, second in league history. "The first period was wicked. They came out slashing, intimidating our best players. We have a skilled team and we are supposed to be allowed to play with skill. It was just whack and hack -- bush kind of hockey."

Thanks to two goals in the third period by captain Michael Richards, including the winner while short-handed and later an empty-netter, the Rangers won 3-1 before a rocking crowd of 6,472 at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium to tie the best-of-seven series 1-1.

Rangers coach Peter DeBoer, who never has had a problem speaking his mind, likely is facing a fine from the league after his post-game musings when he verbally slammed referee Terry Hobor.

"It's tough enough beating the Knights without having to beat the refereeing," said DeBoer, whose club killed off all nine London power plays and failed to score on its six. "We're in the final four and I can't believe there would be that level of incompetency. I don't know if there is a mandate out there that the Knights need a nice easy ride to the Memorial Cup, but that was embarrassing. I'm sure Dale would like it if we just handed them the series."

But the Rangers showed they won't fall meekly. The game was nasty and featured plenty of stick work -- and two fights in the final 15 minutes -- but OHL observers expected this to be a tough, take-no-prisoners series. DeBoer's team plays an aggressive, in-your-face style and while Hunter probably was trying to deflect attention away from the loss, his group will have to find a way to combat the Rangers' approach.

Evan McGrath also scored for Kitchener, which had a 35-save performance by goalie Eric Pfligler. Corey Perry, who was heckled mercilessly by fans throughout the game, scored for London. Knights regulars Danny Fritsche (flu) and Bryan Rodney (upper-body injury) did not play. Gerald Coleman stopped 33 shots for London.

"Coming into this series, nobody gave us a chance," Richards said. "Winning and playing the way we did really helps our confidence. We're going to have to win one in their barn, but we're up for the challenge."


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