Bloodied Rangers not done yet

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

It took 59 seconds in Game 3 to realize the Kitchener Rangers smelled blood.

The Rangers won Game 2 3-1 in Kitchener. They came into the John Labatt Centre Monday night with a confidence buoyed by their aggressive play and the belief they were catching the Knights in a down period both physically and mentally.

Defenceman Bryan Rodney was out with an injury, joining Frank Rediker and Jeff Whitfield on the sidelines, and a number of other players were aching. There might not be any better chance to win at the JLC.

So when Brandon Prust took an elbowing penalty 59 seconds into the game, the Rangers believed they had an opportunity to deflate the Knights. Before the drop of the puck, the Rangers successfully nabbed Knight Corey Perry with an illegal stick. The Knights would play two men short for two minutes.

The thinking was obvious. Get up early and the Knights might not be able to recover.

But the Knights did survive. They killed that penalty and many others. Goalie Adam Dennis was terrific and the Knights' power play scored five goals in a 6-1 win.

Suddenly, the team that smelled blood was bloodied.

It may turn out to be a defining moment in the series.

But there remain a number of factors that will determine the eventual outcome of the Western Conference final, including injuries and the attrition factor.

But judging by the look on the face of Rangers coach Peter DeBoer after the game, he probably expected his team to play better. He saw an opportunity lost as well as some momentum.

This is a nasty series. It's a dirty series filled with players applying stickwork, fists, elbows and just about any other appendage available to their opponents.

While the series is interesting and controversial, it's not the type of series the OHL would want to show to prospects who are shopping around for a league to play in when they become eligible.

This series has sparked great emotion in both communities. E-mails in almost equal numbers vilify the Rangers and DeBoer for their style of play while complaining about the Knights' diving ability.

They are also unhappy with Knights coach Dale Hunter's criticism of how the Rangers are playing, pointing out Hunter stands second overall in penalty minute totals in NHL history.

Despite the interest the series has generated and the heated atmosphere it's been played under, much of what has happened on the ice is nothing short of ridiculous.

Here's part of an e-mail Carl Good of London sent to OHL commissioner David Branch, with a copy to the media.

"I am not sure if these messages mean anything to management at the CHL or OHL, but as a business professional and passionate hockey fan I felt I needed to respond to what I am seeing while watching the Rangers-Knights hockey series," Good writes.

"I have never been more disappointed in a sports product in all my life. The level of violence in this series is completely unacceptable and the league, the referees and the teams should all be embarrassed by this display. I cannot deny I love a good hockey fight, as do most hockey fans, but not when it leads to numerous incidents of attempts to injure as is unfolding on practically every shift in this series. These players are virtually kids learning a trade and you are letting them learn that violent hockey is the path to success."

Don't expect it to change much. With the Knights missing Rodney, Trevor Kell and maybe Danny Syvret to injury, there's no disadvantage to the Rangers continuing their physical play.

The Rangers were bloodied by the Knights on Monday, but it won't stop them from circling a target they think is vulnerable.

Whether it is or not, remains to be seen.


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