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Knights 5 vs Rangers 2: Knights up 3-0 in Series

April 24, 2012

Game 3 is always a pivotal game. Often called the swing game, a win for the Knights would give them a stranglehold on the series. On the other hand, a Rangers win would send them back to Kitchener with the momentum and the opportunity to tie the series at home. After two games, nobody could be sure what we’d see from either of the Knights or the Rangers. After a wild game 2 in Kitchener, it was up to the Rangers to show they could rebound from a disheartening loss and the Knights would need to bring consistency and discipline to the table.

After period one, it appeared that the Knights had taken the momentum they’d developed in the third period of the previous game and brought it forward.  Under two minutes in, Jared Knight scored on a pretty passing play with the Rupert brothers on just the Knights’ first shot on goal.  10 minutes later, Tyler Ferry would score his second of the playoffs from the high slot and John Gibson would be lifted in favour of backup Franky Palazzese.

This would only be a shakeup tactic from Kitchener head coach Steve Spott as he looked to send his team a message. Half a  minute later, message received – Tyler Randell would score and Gibson would return to the nets. The Knights would continue to pepper the Rangers ‘tender, but only took a 1 goal lead to the dressing room to show for their 20-8 shots on goal advantage.

London would start the second period on the powerplay and actually receive a 2-man advantage, their powerplay would again let them down. Not to be deterred, the Knights would continue to pressure and leading rookie Olli Maatta would score two goals in less than 30 seconds to restore the Knights’ advantage and chase Gibson for good.  The Rangers would respond with a beautiful goal from Eric Ming to turn the momentum, but the period would finish on a high note for London as they killed two consecutive penalties to close it out.

Faced with an identical score, London wanted nothing to do with a reverse replay of their own third period comeback. Kitchener would run into penalty trouble, but aside from impeding their ability to ice a full offensive lineup, the Knights’ powerplay didn’t cause any damage.  However, it did allow London to take stifling defence to the limit and it took Kitchener several tries at the end of the period to get their goalie out of the net for the 6th attacker. The Rangers were unable to generate any offence and Ryan Rupert would eventually close out the scoring by chasing down a potential icing play ahead of Cody Sol and chipping it in the net.

All the key components of the Knights’ game appeared, with the exception of the powerplay.  All the goals came at full strength, primarily from ‘secondary’ scoring threats (Maatta, Ferry, Rupert) and the defence was stingy; limiting the Rangers to 23 shots on goal.  Michael Houser was solid, but due to the work of the team in front of him, he didn’t have to be outstanding.

The intangibles were also in evidence – I can’t say enough about the work ethic of Austin Watson and Brett Cook. Watson was at his shot-blocking best, his play to set up the goal by Olli Maatta showed off his patience and offensive skills and as usual, he was on the ice at the end of the game defending the lead. Brett Cook, not touted as highly as Mark Hunter’s other deadline acquisitions – showed time and again his worth on the back end.  Big pinches to keep the puck in, subtle plays to protect and get the puck out, Cook did it all. If the powerplay were ever to find its legs, the Knights would be pretty unstoppable.

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