KITCHENER -- Not many of the 6,313 people jammed into the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium last night gave the short-handed London Knights much chance of waking up today in first place.
But "short-handed" is exactly how London's hard-working Jordan Foreman likes to play it.
The 19-year-old from Cambridge, whose overtime penalty led to a loss to Kitchener in London on Thursday, popped two unassisted short-handed goals in the third period to complete his first OHL hat trick and lead the Knights to a 6-3 win over the Rangers.
London jumped ahead of Kitchener by three points with 15 games to go in the race for the OHL's Western Conference crown. It was the Knights' first win in three trips to the Aud this season.
"It's the biggest win of the year so far," said Foreman, who leads the OHL in short-handed goals with six.
"It was a character game for us. First place was on the line and we knew they could've jumped ahead of us in the standings. We weren't happy with how we played Thursday and we were down 3-2 heading into the third, but the guys in the room were still up and we knew we could win this game if we got a couple of good shots on (Kitchener goalie Dan) Turple."
The Knights showed guts in beating Kitchener without goalie Adam Dennis, head coach Dale Hunter and defencemen Frank Rediker and Ryan Martinelli, who drew two-game suspensions for the brawl on Friday night against the Plymouth Whalers. Forward Robbie Drummond also sat out as a precautionary measure after being clobbered by Whaler Jared Boll in that game.
London rookie goalie Steve Mason, who made just his third start of the season, turned aside 31 Rangers shots for the most satisfying win of his young career. He had left the Knights on Friday to play for the Western junior B league's Petrolia Jets and lost 3-2 to the St. Marys Lincolns in a shootout before being recalled.
"That's even more motivation when no one believes you're going to win and you come in as the big underdog," the 17-year-old said. "I got a ton of offensive support. Adam (Dennis) has a chance to win every night and I'm happy they gave me the chance and believed in what I was doing.
"Everyone was out there blocking shots. It was a huge win for us."
London defenceman Matt Pelech took a slap shot flush in the face in the second period and ended up with a nasty gash near his mouth. With the Knights already missing two of their best defencemen, they couldn't afford to play the rest of the game minus the first-round pick of the Calgary Flames as well
"What a trooper Matt is," Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "He comes back in the third with a mask on and in his first shift, he goes down and blocks another shot. That right there is everything our team believes in. (Kitchener) had a lot more depth than we did and they bring a lot of heat but we hung in there and showed a lot of heart and character."
Kitchener, which has the best defensive team in the OHL, has allowed the second-most short-handed goals in the league and had no answer for the speedy Foreman, a penalty-kill specialist who's not afraid to create offence.
"It's a tough loss because it was a battle for first place and we knew we could've passed them in the standings," Kitchener defenceman Matt Lashoff said. "I don't think we let down on them because they still had their four big guns in the lineup. They made adjustments and had a couple of guys on the point on the power play that hadn't been there before."
London, which had been 0-for-22 on the power play in their previous two games, scored on their first two chances to break their troubling funk. Last night, the Knights moved captain Dylan Hunter to the top of the point and it paid off with four power-play goals on 11 opportunities.
Knights 6, Rangers 3
London goals: Jordan Foreman (3), David Bolland (2), Adam Perry
Kitchener goals: Matt Lashoff, Cory Konecny, Jakub Kindl
Next: Short-handed London is home to the Eastern Conference-leading Peterborough Petes on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.