Knights conquer the Aud

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:13 PM ET

KITCHENER - They came nearly 7,000 strong to what most hoped would be a hockey funeral.

The Kitchener Rangers were primed to shovel dirt on rival London Saturday night.

The loud, proud Aud crowd wanted to boo Nazem Kadri right into his pre-NHL off-season.

Sorry, folks.

Rather, they witnessed a resurrection.

The Knights forced Game 7 heaven Monday night with a 5-3 victory in a gut-check Game 6.

On Saturday, only one team - London - had to worry about the death of their season.

Suddenly, there's two.

"This was like our Game 7," said London forward Jared Knight, who scored two goals on a struggling Kitchener goalie Brandon Maxwell. "We got it done and all it did was give us another shot. Game 7s are exciting. I don't think I've ever played in one and I can't wait."

Don't dim the lights on the John Labatt Centre yet.

They'll reflect well off London goalie Michael Hutchinson, who wore his gleaming new white pads that he'd been breaking in all playoffs but never used until absolutely necessary.

He stopped 40 shots in his best start of the playoffs.

"That's the Hutch we know," Kadri said.

It didn't start well, though.

Hutchinson surrendered the game's first goal by losing the puck after trying to freeze it. Rangers standout Jeff Skinner torched him on the wraparound.

"Give the credit to the guys," Hutch said. "That first one was tough. Something like that wouldn't happen again in a million years, but our guys came out and got the next goal."

They got the next five. They held on in the third when the Rangers got a bunch of power plays.

Hutch, a big guy, was large.

"I don't think he was much different," Kitchener defenceman Ryan Murphy said. "They did a better job of blocking shots in this one."

Hutch did have some help from his friends, including the sweetest of Swedes.

Defender Kalle Ekelund, London's best in this series, scored a big goal and also stopped one stand-up goalie-style early in the third.

"I was down and out and saw the shot and couldn't get to it," Hutchinson said, "but Kalle was there and did a great job. I'm going to owe him one after this series."

It was a play that helped silence an Aud that was back to razzing Naz Kadri.

But now, the Rangers are going to the Knights' turf.

No one has beaten London twice at home this season.

Kitchener, Game 5 winners, has to do it twice in a row.

"We're 1-9 there, aren't we," Kitchener captain Dan Kelly said, "so we're hoping now we can up that ratio."

The Knights last played a Game 7 at home in 2007 when the closed out the Soo Greyhounds in the second round.

The Rangers still have a chance but they know they missed their best one.

They'll face a JLC crowd louder than any they've seen before.

"Can't worry about that," Maxwell said.

The Knights were buoyed by the recovery of big Leigh Salters.

He sat out Game 4, but early on, blasted Skinner with his head down behind the Knights net.

Salters nailed him, but ended up wearing the brunt of it and knocked himself out.

It was the exact same spot on the ice that Rangers rookie Ben Fanelli took a big hit from Mike Liambas that cost both of them their season.

Salters recovered and kept playing.

"That was big for us to see that," Hutchinson said.

That's what warriors do.

The Rangers have one in Skinner.

But the Knights have plenty of character.

They skated Saturday morning in London, watched some video and had a team meal before taking the bus.

The players held their own meeting away from the coaches to discuss what needed to be done.

And they did it.

They live.

And if the Rangers thought it'd be tough to bury them in Game 6, it'll be even more difficult against a team with new life.

OHL PLAYOFFS

Knights 5, Rangers 3

(Best-of-seven series tied 3-3)

London goals: Jared Knight (2), Steve Tarasuk, Justin Taylor, Kalle Ekelund

Kitchener goals: Jeff Skinner (2), John Moore

Game 7: Monday, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.

E-mail ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca or follow Ryanpyette on Twitter.


Videos

Photos