Coleman rock solid for Knights

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:11 PM ET

MISSISSAUGA -- It's a long shot but if Team USA is looking for a backup goaltender for Alvaro Montoya at the world junior championship, it might want to check out the London Knights.

Gerald Coleman qualifies. He is American and he's the top goalie in the Ontario Hockey League, with a 1.58 goals-against average and .945 save percentage.

Coleman kicked out 26 of 27 shots last night as the Knights beat the Mississauga IceDogs 6-1 at the Hershey Centre. The win ran London's record-breaking unbeaten streak at the start of a season to 19 games -- 18 wins and a tie.

The tie was against the IceDogs on Oct. 22 at the John Labatt Centre after the Knights had won 10 in a row, leaving them one short of equalling the record for wins to begin a season.

Coleman, who blanked the St. Michael's Majors 4-0 in Toronto on Sunday, lost his shutout bid 1:10 into the third period, the IceDogs scoring on a power play.

Rookie centre Dustin Jeffrey from Courtright had three whacks at the puck before putting it over a sprawled Coleman.

Going back to a 3-2 overtime win over Guelph Nov. 4, when Coleman was last scored on at 2:53 of the third period, he had 120 minutes, 54 seconds of shutout play.

USA Hockey last week named its first 12 players, including Montoya, the University of Michigan goalie and New York Rangers draft pick, to its 22-player roster.

Montoya starred last year in Helsinki when the American juniors won gold for the first time. Whoever is named to join him this year in Grand Forks, N.D., will be riding the pines.

"All I can do is put up good numbers and see what happens," said Coleman.

"But they won it last year with Montoya, and he's probably going to play all the games. I'd rather stay here and help the team than go there and sit on the bench.

"We might lose a lot of guys to the world junior . . . and I can stay here and help the team."

But in the next breath, Coleman added, "If I could play, I'd be there in a second."

Coleman is a Tampa Bay draft pick. The Lightning's director of player personnel, Bill Barber, a former Philadelphia Flyer, was at last night's game.

"He's covering a lot of the net and he's off to a pretty nice start, to say the least," Barber said.

"We're happy for him because he's a good kid and he's getting better.

"He's in a nice situation here, having the experience of the Hunter family," Barber said in reference to Knights GM Mark Hunter and coach Dale Hunter, team co-owners and former NHLers.

"They're great competitors and they demand a lot, and that's the way it should be. Kids need to be pushed."

The Knights' Corey Perry, who saw his 17-game points streak end Sunday, had a three-point night, including his 16th goal.

He leads the OHL with 44 points and is second in the Canadian Hockey League, two points behind Sidney Crosby of the Rimouski Oceanic in the Quebec league.

KNIGHTS 6, ICEDOGS 1

London goals: Danny Syvret (2), Corey Perry, Dylan Hunter, David Bolland, Trevor Kell

Misssissauga goal: Dustin Jeffrey

Next: The Knights play the Belleville Bulls tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre starting at 7:30 p.m. Standing room is all that remains.


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