KITCHENER -- The war of words between the London Knights and Kitchener Rangers is as entertaining as the games themselves. The Rangers finally solved the Knights last night, doing what no other team had been able to do in the 2005 playoffs, winning 3-1 before 6,472 at the Memorial Auditorium to tie the OHL Western Conference final 1-1.
The Rangers had also lost all six regular-season games with London, while the Knights had won nine straight in the post-season after sweeping Guelph and Windsor.
The Rangers' Michael Richards broke a 1-1 tie with a short-handed goal two minutes into the third period. He then put it away with an empty-netter with 1:05 left in regulation time, giving him 11 playoff goals.
But it was during the postgame media conference that things heated up.
Knights coach Dale Hunter said the Rangers played "bush" hockey, slashing and intimidating their way to the win.
Rangers coach Peter DeBoer was critical of referee Terry Hobor and said some things that will likely get him fined.
The power plays were 9-6 in London's favour, although the Knights' vaunted power play is only one-for-19 in this series.
"It's tough enough beating the London Knights, the No. 1-ranked team in the country, without having to beat the refereeing and the officiating, too," DeBoer said.
"We're in the final four here and I can't believe there'd be that level of incompetency. I don't know if there is a mandate out there that the London Knights need a nice easy ride to the Memorial Cup or what, but that was embarrassing."
Hunter had some choice words for the Rangers' tactics.
"The first period I thought it was a wicked hockey game. They came out slashing and intimidating our best players," Hunter said.
"You saw the penalties they were drawing (and) they could have called a whole bunch more because it was a slash and whack and hack game.
"We had a thing come through (from) the league (that) they were going to call all this stuff, too. . . . There was no skill out there tonight, it was whack and hack. We might as well been playing in the bush leagues. It was bush kind of hockey.
"It's frustrating because you build a skilled team and you're not allowed to use your skill. It's unfortunate."
The Knights' Corey Perry, who tied the game at 4:11 of the second period after Evan McGrath had given the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 20 seconds into the period, was frustrated.
"The slashes, the whacks, the holdups and the grabbing and the clutching, it's supposed to be called, but I guess not tonight," Perry said.
DeBoer countered: "It's the playoffs. I don't care what style of hockey it is, as long as we win games and that's what we did tonight."
The Rangers now have to find a way to win at the John Labatt Centre, where the Knights have lost just once in 39 games, which includes five playoff games.
"Coming into this series, nobody gave us a chance," Richards said. "I was reading and hearing we were going to go down four straight, but winning tonight, playing the way we did, really helps our confidence out."
The Knights have been accused by the Rangers of being cocky.
"It goes both ways," said Knights assistant coach Jeff Perry. "Everyone is chirping a bit here and there, but when you do have a season like we've had you can have a little bit of a swagger to you.
"Look at the New York Yankees in baseball. They're a pretty confident group every time they take to the field and that's the way this team is.
"They're a confident group and when you've done what we've done, you can walk with your shoulders back a little bit and chest out. And I think they've earned that right a little bit."
Rangers 3, Knights 1
The series: London and Kitchener are tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven OHL Western Conference final.
Kitchener goals: Michael Richards (2), Evan McGrath
London goal: Corey Perry
Next: Game 3 is tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre at 7 p.m.