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'We don't like them, they don't like us': Rangers-Knights rivalry reignites in OHL playoffs

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Hockey fans lined up at the Aud on Thursday morning to purchase Game 3 and Game 4 tickets for the Kitchener Rangers’ second round run in the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

"I wanted to be the first one to try and grab one of these bad boys," Cody McAmmond, a Rangers fan, said after purchasing tickets.

"Especially since it's against the London Knights," Evan Goertz, another Rangers fan, added. "I left my house at around 8:30 a.m. I had to take two buses, but, you know, still got here for 9 a.m."

Three lines of fans could be seen inside the Aud on Thursday morning.

"I think it's amazing. That means a lot more people are interested because we've been coming for years and there's never been three lines. They had to open up the second and third lineups here, so it's great," said Rangers fan Ann Grabowski.

The Rangers are taking on the London Knights in round two of the playoffs. Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is happening in London Thursday night, while Game 2 is set for Saturday. Both Games 3 and 4 will be played in Kitchener on Tuesday, April 16 and Thursday, April 18. If extra games are needed, Game 5 will take place in London on April 19, Game 6 will happen on April 21 in Kitchener, and Game 7 is planned for April 23 in London.

This marks the third year of a Highway 401 post-season faceoff. In 2022, the Rangers defeated London in the first round of the playoffs, winning 4-3 in overtime in Game 7. Last year, the Knights handily won their second round series matchup four games to one.

"Dating back to the two years prior, we lost once to them and we beat them once. So I think the tiebreaker here for me, it's going to be huge,” said Rangers forward Matthew Sop. “I love playing those guys. It's going to be electric even in their own barn. I know their fans are wild, so I can't wait."

The Kitchener Rangers practice at the Aud on April 11, 2024 ahead of their playoff series with the London Knights. (Chris Thomson/CTV Kitchener)

Sop is in his final year playing with the Rangers. Knowing the team’s history with the Knights, he expects a fierce fight.

"We don't like them. They don't like us. But I think this is the kind of series that our team lives for," Sop added.

"[It] just makes it more fun,” said Rangers head coach Jussi Ahokas. “I think all the players and all the fans, everybody's waiting for it."

During regular season competition, the Rangers and Knights faced off six times. Kitchener lost four of those games and won twice.

"We're the underdogs going in, but the playoffs is a totally new season, so we have to be really good," Ahokas said.

For the most part, the Knights have Kitchener’s number in the postseason. This is the ninth time they’ve met in the playoffs since 2005 and the Rangers have only won two of the previous eight playoff rounds with London.

"Against them, we have to stay out of the box and we have to keep playing our good five on five game,” said Ahokas. “If we keep just running that then we have a good chance. Anything can happen."

Fans buying tickets on the Aud Thursday said they’re a bit nervous to face London again, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

"Especially for Rangers fans to see London again for a third straight year,” explained McAmmond. “But when you've been cheering this team on for more than 20 years, you're bound to face London.”

Kitchener Rangers fans line up to get tickets for their playoff series with the London Knights. (Chris Thomson/CTV Kitchener)

“There's probably going to be more fights than there has been in the first part, but hopefully they'll do just as well. And keep up the energy," Grabowski added. "If you live here and you can come to the games, you really should, because it's totally different than watching on TV, because you feel the energy and you really help, you help the boys out."

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