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Rangers turn in lopsided loss to London

Kitchener falls three points behind London in the Western Conference

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

There have been many personnel changes over the years with both the Kitchener Rangers and London Knights --- as is the nature of major junior hockey --- but it seems the Knights continue to have Kitchener’s number time and time again.

And with first place in the Western Conference on the line, the Rangers turned in a stinker.

London proved to be too much, snapping Kitchener’s five-game winning streak with a 6-2 decision at The Aud Tuesday night.

“We looked really nervous, and really antsy and I think we were almost too amped up," says Rangers coach and GM Mike McKenzie, "We definitely weren’t ourselves. We threw pucks away, we basically played pond hockey to a certain extent, just had no structure, no legs and no hands. Overall, (it) wasn’t a great game for us.”

“Third period was a little better, I thought. But at that point, too little, too late. Give (London) credit, they played a really good road game too.”

You can chalk up some missed opportunities in the early going for Kitchener, as they went scoreless on three straight power plays in the first 13 minutes.

Amid all that, another shorthanded goal against, part of a three-goal period for the visitors.

Liam Hawel got the Rangers on the board halfway through the second, but Connor McMichael and Jonathan Gruden had goals 10 seconds apart moments later to put the game more out of reach than what it already was.

Jacob Ingham would spend the third period on the bench, after giving up five goals on 31 shots.

More of a mercy pull than anything, as the Rangers were under siege for the majority of the contest.

Kitchener had a mere 11 shots through 40 minutes.

Mike Petizian reached the 20-goal plateau in the third, but Kitchener native Jason Willms responded in the final minutes for London to round out the scoring.

McMichael put up a three-point effort, while Luke Evangelista, Ryan Merkley and Gruden each had a goal and a helper.

Matvey Guskov had the other London goal.

The Knights are now 23-6-0-1 over the last five years against Kitchener, and claim this year’s season series 4-2.

And if not for coach Dale Hunter, Liam Foudy and Connor McMichael being away for the World Junior Hockey Championships, London could very well be 12-0 over their rivals over the last two seasons.

That belief was so strong, London Free Press reporter Ryan Pyette made claim that "both sides know the Rangers' two wins this year came with an asterisk."

McKenzie countered the claim, alluding to the four key guys missing in Tuesday's lineup.

"We can put an asterisk beside this one and call it even for the year and we’ll move on to Friday," he said.

The Rangers were without Greg Meireles (suspension), Arber Xhekaj (suspension), Reid Valade (injury) and Isaac Langdon (injury).

But no matter how you view it, this will be a game to forget for Kitchener, who drop to three points behind the Knights in the West with just eight games left.

The Rangers host the Barrie Colts Friday night.

Pregame on 570 NEWS is 7:00 p.m.


Mark Pare

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