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London Knights bounce back to even series with Kitchener Rangers

London Knights general manager Mark Hunter said that his team needed to, “Feel the pressure, like the pressure and perform in the pressure,” as they headed into Game 2 of their first-round series against the Kitchener Rangers.

Those words turned out to be prophetic as a much more comfortable-looking Knights team took to the ice and beat Kitchener 5-2 to tie their first round series at a game apiece on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.

Gerard Keane scored twice for London in a game that saw the Knights outshoot the Rangers 44-16.

Landon Sim and Kirill Steklov each recorded two assists for London.

After falling behind 3-0 in Game 1 the Knights pushed early and often for the first goal of Game 2 but it took until their 14th shot to beat Rangers goaltender Pavel Cajan.

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Cody Morgan got that confidence-builder of a goal as he outsmarted the Rangers behind the net with a fake and then wrapped the puck around the net into an empty side. Morgan has 15 points in his last nine games.

Read more: Brett Brochu returns for London Knights but Kitchener Rangers grab Game 1

Another hot hand put the Knights ahead 2-0 1:37 later as Tonio Stranges knocked a puck out of the air to keep it in the Kitchener zone and then took a feed from Liam Gilmartin and scored his third goal in two playoff games. Stranges had seven points in the final four games he played in the regular season.

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Those goals gave London breathing room that they kept the rest of the way.

Keane scored his first of the night 21 seconds into the second period.

Oliver Bonk fired home his first Ontario Hockey League goal to make it 4-0 at the 5:44 mark of the third period.

Kitchener climbed back into things with a pair of goals that came just shy of two and a half minutes apart. Adrian Miseljevic took advantage of some commotion in the Knights crease to find an open side on Brett Brochu. The play was challenged by London but the goal stood. Mike Petizian made it 4-2 with 5:28 remaining but Keane’s second of the game on a power play at 17:27 rounded out the scoring.

London won 45 of 67 faceoffs on the night.

Game 3 is Sunday in Kitchener, Ont.

The kids from 2016 are all right

It has been quite a year for three ex-Knights who won the Memorial Cup in 2016. Robert Thomas is currently on a 14-game point streak with the St. Louis Blues as part of a career year that has seen Thomas out up 20 goals and 75 points.

Matthew Tkachuk scored against the Dallas Stars on Apr. 21 to hit 40 goals and 100 points and Tkachuk’s former linemate Mitch Marner is still in the running for most points than any other NHL player in the 2022 calendar year. Marner has 74 which has him tied with Tkachuk and just two behind Johnny Gaudreau.

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Read more: Ontario Hockey League Western Conference first round playoff preview

Regula wrists in his first

Defenceman Alec Regula scored 27 goals for the Knights in the 2019-20 season to lead all OHL defencemen in that category and Regula still had six games to go before the season was halted by the start of the pandemic.

The Michigan native made his National Hockey League debut last year when he played in three games for the Chicago Blackhawks. On April 18 Regula took a wrist shot from the left point that beat Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom just past the halfway mark of the second period for his first NHL goal and first NHL point.

Read more: London Knights have officially clinched a playoff spot for the 21st straight year

Up next

Game 3 between the Knights and Kitchener will take place at 2 pm on Sunday, Apr. 24 at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

London had a 3-2 road record against the Rangers during the regular season. The Knights outscored Kitchener 18-7 in the first three of those meetings. The Rangers won both games against London in February and March.

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Coverage will start at 1:30 on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

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