A victory but a lesson, too

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

It was a grim-looking set of coaches inside the London Knights dressing room after their game last night with the Windsor Spitfires.

"That was ugly," said assistant coach Jeff Perry.

One never would have known the Knights had just beaten the Spitfires 2-1.

Anyone who attended the game, however, would have known exactly what Perry meant.

It was a chore finding a passing play that involved more than three passes strung together.

It was usually a case of one pass, then a second clanging off a stick before the puck was either lost or dumped into a corner.

Most of the scoring chances came from dumping the puck in front of the net and piling in.

You would have been hard-pressed to find a dozen good scoring chances.

Team statistics had Windsor with eight chances. That was generous.

And the game was ugly. Terribly ugly.

It's the type of game the Knights might run into a lot this season. Windsor might feel somewhat cheated that it didn't get at least one point. The Spits wanted to play a close-checking game with few chances because they don't have many goal scorers.

There will be several teams the Knights face that won't match up with them in scoring. They'd better get used to the tight game.

"Hopefully, we learned a lesson from the game," said Perry. "We have to be ready for every game.

"(The coaching staff) just wasn't happy with the way we played," he said. "I don't think we were prepared at the beginning of the game. We were a little lethargic coming out of the gate. Windsor probably deserved a point."

Perry was concerned the Spitfires have a habit of starting quickly in Windsor Arena, especially when the Knights come to town.

The teams tried to put a spark in what was at one time the most heated rivalry in the OHL.

Two seconds into the game, the Knights' Josh Beaulieu squared off with Windsor's Steve Downie.

They dropped their gloves, got rid of their helmets, even removed their elbow pads. They pounded away at each other for a while and then went to the penalty box.

In years past, the Barn would have been in an uproar. Instead there was hardly a peep.

From that point on, everything was pretty tame.

Oh, every once in a while someone would take a poke at someone or slash at his ankles or the back of his legs.

But there wasn't much emotion involved.

Even the beer-guzzling nasties who used to take up residence behind the opposition net spouting every imaginable insult on a goaltender weren't in evidence.

There was what's always been a staple of London-Windsor games in the past -- good solid hitting and physical play.

The only thing that would even remind anyone they were playing in the venerable Barn was that as the national anthem singer began her rendition of O Canada, a horrible screeching sound invaded the sound system. The national anthem was pre-empted.

It was the most life the crowd showed for most of the night.

The hockey certainly did nothing to inspire the crowd. It was, in a word, dreadful.

"It's early still and some nights you just don't click," said Perry. "Good teams still manage to find a way to win and we managed to find a way to win. But we're going to have to play a lot better than that."

It is early in the season but there's a lot of horrible hockey being played. The Knights are fortunate. They have a few more highly skilled players than most, giving their fans something to cheer about.

No doubt as the season progresses there will be more good hockey played. Until that happens, the paucity of quality players throughout the league will lead to games that are more chilling that thrilling.

The Knights will take a win however they can get it. Let's just hope it doesn't get any uglier than this.


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