Rangers edge London Knights in overtime on Family Day

Reid Valade tipped in the game-winning goal with less than a minute to go in overtime as the Kitchener Rangers defeated the London Knights 5-4 on Family Day afternoon.

The game ended a wild afternoon between the teams in front of a boisterous crowd of 4,500 at Budweiser Gardens.

The game set a tone for what was to come when the first two shots wound up in the back of the net.

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Isaiah George of the Knights made a move at the blue line in the first 30 seconds of the game, walked into the high slot and slid a shot right along the ice and right through the legs of Kitchener goaltender Pavel Cajan to put London ahead 1-0.

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A little over 30 seconds later, Rangers forward Mike Petizian got the puck in the London zone on the left side, found a lane to the net and scored his 20th of the year to tie the game 1-1.

After that, the goalies shut the door for the remainder of the first period.

The second period was highlighted not by two early goals but by two goals that appeared to go but were negated after video reviews ruled both of them were offside.

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Both came after Kitchener had scored to take the lead on a goal by rookie forward Adam Zidlicky who took a pass from Lucan, Ont., native Navrin Mutter and flipped a shot over the left pad of Brett Brochu at the side of the London net to make it 2-1 for the Rangers. Zidlicky is the son of Marek Zidlicky who played over 800 games in the National Hockey League.

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Mutter became the story the rest of the way in period two as he spun to bring a puck across the Knights’ blue line and fired a puck into the London net under the arm of Brochu. The play was reviewed and ruled offside.

Late in the second period on a Kitchener power play, Mutter got to the slot with the puck, faked a shot and slid a pass to Carson Rehkopf of the Rangers for a tap-in. Kitchener celebrated believing they had their third goal of the game only to have the play reviewed and ruled offside.

The score remained 2-1 heading into the final 20 minutes.

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Early goals returned in the third period.

The teams combined to score on the first three shots of period three.

First, Knights forward Cody Morgan stripped a puck away outside the Kitchener blue line and raced back the other way on a breakaway and popped a shot between the legs of Cajan to tie the game at the 1:05 mark.

Just sixteen seconds later, Ty Hollett took a shot through traffic from the right point of the London end and it found its way in to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.

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Then 15 seconds later, a falling Francesco Pinelli batted a puck to Reid Valade as he headed to the Knight net, deked to his backhand and scored.

Three goals on three shots in 31 seconds and Kitchener led 4-2.

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London worked their way back from there as first Ruslan Gazizov got to a loose puck in front of the Ranger crease and scored his sixth goal of the season and the Knights were down by just one heading into the final ten minutes of the game.

London went to a power play with 7:03 remaining in regulation and Morgan found Sean McGurn for a one-timer to tie it 14:43 of the third period.

The Knights found themselves going to overtime for the first time since November 27. That night they went to a shootout and defeated Owen Sound.

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Against Kitchener, the Rangers went to the power play and got the win when Valade poked in his second of the game with 51.5 seconds remaining in OT.

Morgan led the way offensively for the Knights with a goal and two assists.

London outshot the Rangers 49-29.

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Jam-packed schedule

The Knights are wrapping up the month of February with four games in eight days and will then kick off one of the busiest months in franchise history.

To make up for postponements earlier in the season, the Ontario Hockey League restructured the final few weeks of its season and added nearly three weeks onto the end of it in April. That means London will play 15 times in March.

Seven of those games will be at home and eight will be on the road.

During the 2019-20 pre-pandemic schedule, the Knights played 11 games in a month three times but never played more games than that. London will play seven times in 17 days in April to end the regular season.

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Gemel Smith back in Tampa Bay

Gemel Smith is back with the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Smith was acquired on waivers by the Lighting on February 18 from the Detroit Red Wings.

The Toronto, Ont., native spent most of his OHL career with the Owen Sound Attack but finished the season in 2013-14 in London and played in the 2014 Memorial Cup.

Smith started his National Hockey League career with the Dallas Stars organization and then made a quick stop in Providence/Boston before landing in Tampa Bay in time for the Lightning to win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

He played in eight games with Tampa Bay during their two championship seasons but was part of the taxi-squad in the playoffs and was on the ice for both Stanley Cup celebrations.

Smith suffered an injury in training camp this year and was placed on waivers early in the season with the hope that he would clear and could go to the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate.

Instead, he was scooped up by the Red Wings and actually got a chance to play games with his brother Givani in Detroit, Mich.

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As ironic as it might be, the return of another former London Knight, Vladislav Namestnikov, forced the Red Wings to place Smith on waivers and Tampa Bay, who never wanted to lose him in the first place, was able to bring Smith back.

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Up next

The Knights head out on the road for three straight games beginning Wednesday, Feb. 23, in Owen Sound, Ont. After that, London heads to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., for back-to-back games against the Greyhounds.

The Knights have played seven games against the Attack this season and have won them all. Their last meeting saw London beat Owen Sound 8-3 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre as Luke Evangelista scored twice into an empty net and Ben Bujold added a third empty-netter for his first OHL goal.

So far, the Knights are a perfect 2-0 against the Soo Greyhounds this season as well, winning 7-4 and 8-5 at Budweiser Gardens.

Coverage of all three games will begin at 6:30 pm on 980 CFPL, at and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

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