Barbs off the ice, bedlam on

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:23 PM ET

London Knights coach Dale Hunter called it everything from "hack, whack and slash" hockey to "bush hockey" to "goon hockey." Kitchener Rangers coach Peter DeBoer shrugged off Hunter's criticism with a wave of the hand. He questioned the competence of referee Terry Hobor and called his work embarrassing.

Then he levelled a blast at Hunter.

"I'm sure Dale would like it if we just handed him the series and didn't show up," said DeBoer.

That was after Hunter said at least three times in a news conference that the type of hockey the Rangers played wasn't good for the game.

"It's not good boys, not good," he said. "We've got a skilled team and we're supposed to be able to play with our skill."

The only thing missing was DeBoer giving Hunter a big, fat raspberry.

Nice stuff. Just the kind of thing to warm up the chilly climate in the John Labatt Centre tomorrow for Game 3.

And all that stuff was off the ice. On the ice it was sheer bedlam, especially in the third period as the Rangers defeated the Knights 3-1 to tie their Ontario Hockey League Western Conference final 1-1.

It became obvious last night no one will win this series without paying a steep price.

Kitchener Memorial Auditorium shook to its foundations as the Rangers worked from the first drop of the puck to the final whistle. It was physical and on the edge, especially in the third period when it turned into a showcase of nastiness.

There were cheap shots, trash talk and more threats than in a wrestling card.

Just to add fuel to Game 3, Brandon Prust and Boris Valabik squared off and when it was over, Valabik turned to the Knights bench and wiped his hands in a derisive gesture.

The winner of this series may come down to who can survive.

That's an area of concern for the Knights, especially on the blue-line. How hard things are going to get may depending on the recuperative powers of Bryan Rodney.

Rodney suffered an "upper body injury" late in Game 1 of the series. Jeff Whitfield won't be back any time soon. There have been hints Frank Rediker might be back in the immediate future but there's been no sign of him. Now Rodney.

If you think the Rangers were going to target specific players in an effort to wear them down, you probably ain't seen nothing yet. Expect the Knights other three horses to be worked just like . . . well, horses. Marc Methot, Danny Syvret and Daniel Girardi, along with Rodney, have seen virtually all the ice time on the blue-line.

Last night it was mostly Syvret, Methot and Girardi.

No surprise in what was going to happen. On the first shift of the game, the Rangers' Mike Richards hammered Syvret twice. The Rangers dumped the puck into the Knights zone often, forcing the defenceman to pay a price for bringing it out. It went like that all night long.

Rodney is supposed to be day-to-day but in playoff hockey day-to-day is an expression used for anything short of a heart transplant and even that would be open to debate.

"We'll re-evaluate it again (today) to see if he's ready to go (tomorrow)," said Knights assistant coach Jeff Perry.

The Knights also had to make do without Dan Fritsche, who was out with the flu.

It was a difficult night for Syvret. He played well but every time he turned around he had a Ranger in his face. He didn't get flustered and he wasn't beaten often. But he did get beaten up. He also ran into a teammate at centre ice, giving Richards a short-handed breakaway which he converted for a 2-1 lead.

The Rangers played with an up-tempo work ethic all night. The packed house was loud and wild, adding fuel to the Rangers.Will the physical play catch up to an undermanned defence?

Syvret played 39 minutes.

How well he and Girardi and Methot continue to handle all that ice time may well decide what direction this series goes.


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