Expect a physical OHL season

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Two games into the Ontario Hockey League season and there's not much of a secret about how the teams expect to beat the London Knights.

They want to beat them . . . into submission. Whether it works remains to be seen.

The Kitchener Rangers and Knights met yesterday for the second time this season, and for the second time the home team emerged victorious.

It was much the same as their first meeting Friday. The Rangers wanted to use their superior size advantage to slow down the smaller Knights.

London fought back. As a result, the teams combined yesterday for 36 minors, five misconducts and four majors.

That's all well and good, but what wasn't well and good for the Knights was watching Corey Perry take it on the chin from Mike Richards in a second-period fight.

You heard right -- Corey Perry in a fight. Perry spent nine minutes in the penalty box and many a time was involved in after-whistle encounters.

In fact, far too many of the Knights' skilled players were often involved in incidents that normally are the domain of tougher, grinding players.

This hasn't gone unnoticed.

"If our skilled players keep getting beaten up this way, they're going to have to take boxing lessons." said Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu, who is handling the bench with another assistant Jeff Perry while head coach Dale Hunter serves a four-game suspension.

"They won't back away," he said.

"They have to protect themselves. There's so much mugging going on.

"They have to call the obstruction and grabbing or we're going to take things into our own hands. We don't want to play that way.

"We're a skilled team. We want flow."

Beaulieu was quick to point out that he thought referee Ryan Carroll did a good job in the game. But the next time out, there's a good chance obstruction and interference won't be called.

If there's one thing the OHL also needs to crack down on, it's the cheap stuff that goes on after the whistle -- the unnecessary pushing, shoving and punching. Most of it goes unpunished.

"It's frustrating for a guy like Corey Perry because he plays 20 minutes and it feels like he played 40," said Beaulieu.

There were moments in the game that were almost comical. Knights like Dylan Hunter, Rick Steadman, Jordan Foreman, Robbie Schremp and several others would be facing Rangers like six-foot-six, 230-pound Devereaux Heshmatpour, six-foot-six, 220-pound Boris Valabik or six-foot-three Jakub Kindl.

The Knights recognized during the summer that they needed to get bigger and tougher.

They went out and dealt for tough winger Shawn Futers from Peterborough.

"I can play tough but I can also grind it out, and I'm a good skater," said Futers.

"I found that this conference is a lot tougher than the conference I came from. You have to be able to grind it out."

Futers said he doesn't feel any extra pressure to protect his mates. "I just do what has to be done."

The Knights are going to need at least one more addition like Futers. They have a lot of guys who can't reach the six-foot mark even on tiptoe and who wouldn't tip the Toledos at 190 with all their equipment on.

Skill will win you a lot of games, but in a season which promises to be a long one, little guys and skilled players will get worn down if they are constantly being banged on or have to do heavy slugging.

Beaulieu is clear what on what needs to happen.

"We're going to have to get bigger and we hope that they start calling the obstruction," he said.

The plea to "call the obstruction" has been ongoing. For whatever reason, it doesn't get called on a regular basis.

The second option is getting bigger.

Since you can't grow bigger players in a few months, it seems general manager Mark Hunter will be busy on the telephone trying to find them elsewhere.


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