After clinching their first series win over the London Knights in more than a decade, the Kitchener Rangers are set to open the second round of the OHL Playoffs against the Windsor Spitfires.
The puck drops for Game 1 of the Western Conference Semi-Final on Saturday, less than a week after the No. 7 seed Rangers eliminated the No. 2 seed Knights in a Game 7 overtime thriller.
“It was an exciting first round,” Rangers’ chief operating officer Joe Birch told CTV News. “We don’t believe we’re done yet.”
Windsor is coming off an opening round win over Sarnia in six games. The Spitfires hold the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference after finishing the regular season with 44 wins.
“We’re the underdog, there’s no pressure on us. We just have to play which is a really unique situation to be in,” Birch said.
On the other side, the Spitfires aren’t taking anything for granted, heading into Game 1.
“They have a lot of different guys that can score and I think we’re going to bring our best to each and every game if we want to win this series,” Spitfires goalie Matt Onuska told CTV News.
Rangers’ leading scorer Mike Petizian was the Game 7 hero on Wednesday, scoring the overtime winner to eliminate London in his final season of OHL eligibility. In an interview with CTV News on Thursday, the 21-year-old said the team needs to stay focused on making the right plays against the top team at the conference.
“Obviously it’s going to be a challenge,” Petizian said. “We’ve had some success against them in the regular season, but playoffs are a whole different ballgame.”
The Rangers open the series on the road for Games 1 and 2, before shifting back to The Aud for Game 3 on Tuesday. Birch hopes the home crowd can help shift the series in Kitchener’s favour.
“More than anything right now we need their help to have that loud, rocking Aud going,” Birch said. “Tuesday night will be really important for our young team.”