Gritty Rangers stymie Knights

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

KITCHENER -- The free-wheeling London Knights haven't matched up very well with the grit-and-guts of the Kitchener Rangers.

Though London entered the game as the top team in the OHL and Kitchener appeared headed for a rebuilding phase, the Rangers ended two London runs. The Knights had been the league's lone unbeaten road team and leading scorer Sam Gagner's 11-game point streak ended in a 4-1 decision last night before 5,570 at Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

London was badly outshot (44-30, including 25-7 in the second period), failed to generate any of its power-play sweetness (0-for-five) and barely controlled the puck against Kitchener's hungry muckers and grinders.

The Rangers are quickly becoming a team the Knights don't want to face in a first-round playoff.

"They're a good team and maybe early in the game we didn't shoot the puck enough," London head coach Dale Hunter said. "But the difference in the game were the five-on-threes (power plays) in the second period. They had two, we killed most of them off, but they scored at the end of one. We had none.

"That was the game right there. They got the momentum from it, we didn't."

Nine days after needing a shootout -- and 22 total shooters before Adam Hasani ended it -- to beat Kitchener at the John Labatt Centre, the Knights looked nothing like the club that racked up nine wins in its first 11 games, while the Rangers didn't resemble a team fighting to reach the .500 mark.

London's goal was scored by Kitchener native David Jarram, who also engaged in some off-ice third-period trash talk with toughie Brian Soso after the big Ranger instigated a fight with the much-smaller Jordan Foreman.

"Soso wanted no part of me," said Jarram, who turned 19 on Monday and has a career-high two goals this season. "There's no throwaway games, but we're not worried about this one. They're in our division, so we play them a lot and we'll have to kick their butts next time. We have them back at our rink (Nov. 16) and we'll punish them then."

First, it should be an interesting rematch Nov. 3 at the Aud, especially after London's Jordan Foreman strutted off after scrapping Londoner Adam Zamec of the Rangers.

Late in the third period, Hunter failed to send a skater to serve a penalty and the crowd started chanting his name.

"It's an echo from back in 1978 when they would chant for me as I was burying goals," said Hunter, a one-time Ranger.

Kitchener forward Matt Halischuk continues to haunt London goalie Steve Mason. The Rangers forward scored four goals and a shootout marker nine days ago and buried the third-period capper last night -- his 13th of the season.

Teammate and West Lorne native Justin Azevedo, who had just one goal his first 12 games, popped his second after a Mason giveaway behind the net in the first period.

"We need our big guys to step up and I think (last night) they did," Azevedo said. "(Jakub) Kindl, myself, Halischuk. Hendo (Kevin Henderson) played terrific, too. It was a team win. We deserved to win and we all battled hard and (goalie John) Murray stood on his head."

Three players in last night's game -- London's Sam Gagner, Mason and Azevedo -- were selected to play for the OHL in the Canada/Russia Challenge Nov. 23 in Sarnia and Nov. 27 in Oshawa. Other locals are Kingston's Cory Emmerton of St. Thomas, Saginaw's Patrick McNeill of Strathroy and Harrison Reed, Mark Katic and Ryan Wilson of the Sarnia Sting.

In Gagner's case, it's redemption after being cut at Canada's under-18 camp in the summer. Canada won the gold medal, while Gagner has played well enough this fall to earn another international assignment.

"It's going to be an honour to put on the jersey," he said. "I wore it with the under-17 team, but that was a provincial competition and this is something different. I was really hoping to make that (under-18) team, but I didn't and coming into this year, I used that as motivation."

Gagner knows NHL and Canadian junior scouts will be watching closely in those two showcase games to see how he operates without talented Knights buddy Pat Kane, a Buffalo native, sharing the ice.

"It's a chance to play with different players and to show people I can perform with other skilled players, too," Gagner said.

GAME GLANCE

Rangers 4, Knights 1

Kitchener goals: Justin Azevedo, Jakub Kindl, Kevin Henderson, Matt Halischuk

London goal: David Jarram

Next: The London-Sarnia rivalry re-ignites Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.


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