No spoil­ers

Kitch­ener’s bid to play week­end spoiler falls short against Lon­don

Waterloo Region Record - - Front Page - JOSH BROWN Water­loo Re­gion Record [email protected]­cord.com Twit­ter: @BrownRecord

Some play­ers in ‘awe’ of Lon­don Knights, Kitch­ener Rangers coach says

KITCH­ENER — It was shap­ing up to be the best week­end of the sea­son.

The Kitch­ener Rangers were com­ing off a stun­ning 4-3 over­time win against the mighty Guelph Storm, who spent the past few weeks stack­ing their ros­ter for a run at an On­tario Hockey League ti­tle.

And there the Blueshirts were, up 1-0 on the western con­fer­ence-lead­ing Lon­don Knights after the first pe­riod in Sun­day’s mati­nee at the Aud.

Tak­ing four points from ar­guably the two best clubs in the league would be a mas­sive con­fi­dence boost, key in the stand­ings and eas­ily qual­ify as the most im­pres­sive two-game stand on the Rangers’ sched­ule to date.

But there is a rea­son Lon­don rules the west.

The Knights re­minded their Mid­west Divi­sion foes why they are peren­nial con­tenders, by ex­plod­ing for four goals in the sec­ond pe­riod and a 5-2 vic­tory over the Rangers.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant to re­spect your op­po­nent and go out there and be fo­cused and play the right way. But when you give them too much re­spect, you sit on your heels and watch a lit­tle bit you’re not go­ing to give your­self a chance to win,” said Kitch­ener coach Jay McKee.

“They’re (Lon­don) one of the top teams in Canada, and I think some of our play­ers were maybe in awe of that and not do­ing the right things.

“We have to play with a swag­ger and con­fi­dence re­gard­less of who we’re play­ing, if we want to have suc­cess.”

Jonathan Yan­tis hit the 30-goal bar­rier on the power play to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead after the first pe­riod, be­fore Lon­don erupted in the sec­ond. Nathan Dunk­ley had a pair for the vis­i­tors, while An­to­nio Stranges, Billy Moskal and Liam Foudy added sin­gles.

Ri­ley Dami­ani also replied for the Rangers, as the club dropped to 18-21-3-0 on the sea­son.

Still, tak­ing two of a pos­si­ble four points on a killer week­end is some­thing, es­pe­cially when it was look­ing like po­ten­tial blowouts were on tap.

Now the Rangers, who are only one point up on the sud­denly charg­ing Erie Ot­ters for the last post-sea­son berth in the west, en­ter a piv­otal 11-game stretch.

Kitch­ener has six home games and five road­ies in the next 25 days. Five of them are against foes in the bot­tom four of their con­fer­ences — Erie twice, Hamil­ton, Flint and Wind­sor.

Three are ver­sus Owen Sound, who just sold off its best play­ers, while an­other tilt is against Sar­nia, which is also on the down­swing after the trade dead­line.

Only con­tests with Lon­don and Sault Ste. Marie seem daunt­ing. In short — there are a bunch of winnable games in the mix.

“We look at ev­ery game as a key game,” said McKee. “When you’re play­ing teams that you are fight­ing for play­off po­si­tion

with, those games are re­ally im­por­tant. We want to be play­ing our best hockey com­ing up in the next cou­ple of weeks.”

Rangers winger Ryan Stepien left Fri­day’s game after get­ting rocked into the boards against Guelph. He missed Sun­day’s af­fair, while for­ward Eric Guest re­turned after a one-game lay­off.

PETER LEE WATER­LOO RE­GION RECORD

Rangers’ Dono­van Se­brango, left, is sent fly­ing by Nathan Dunk­ley, mo­ments after the Knights for­ward lost a glove.

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