Hunter's timely line shuffling puts pop into Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

It was all about having pop yesterday.

In the first period, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds had the pop and the London Knights didn't.

That forced Knights coach Dale Hunter to look for some pop in the second period.

He thought that maybe Dave Bolland had pop.

He did and by the end of the second period the Greyhounds balloon went pop.

For 20 minutes, the Greyhounds had images of being the team to stop the Knights' Ontario Hockey League undefeated streak at 22. They led 2-0 after the first period against a Knights team that had no pop.

Enter Bolland and coach Hunter. It was Dale Hunter line shuffling at its best.

In the second period, Bolland found himself at centre between Dylan Hunter and Corey Perry. With the game tied 2-2, Bolland set up Hunter to give the Knights a 3-2 lead, then scored himself 10 seconds later.

It ended 4-2, extending the Knights undefeated run to 23.

On Friday, Dale Hunter moved Schremp to centre between Dylan Hunter and Perry. Schremp scored twice.

Dale Hunter has earned a reputation as a coach who isn't afraid to change lines. Prior to most games, National Hockey League scouts are looking to write down line combinations. With Hunter, those combinations may only last a couple of shifts.

"Sometimes it's just a feeling you get," said Hunter. "You watch how the game goes. Sometimes you move players around because you're matching lines. Sometimes you need a stronger player on a line, sometimes a bigger player.

"Being an ex-player, you know that some days you just don't have that pop. In sports, some days are easy and some days you have to work for everything."

Yesterday was one of those days when the Knights had to work for everything. They lacked intensity and grit in the first period. Even on the power play, their most feared weapon, there was a lack of cohesion. The Greyhounds outshot the Knights 9-5 in the first and the Knights' energy meter was registering near the zero mark.

It wasn't one of their best efforts, which is why Hunter went in search of the elusive pop.

"I thought (Bolland) had good pop. He had it Friday as well," said Hunter. "He had a good first period so we tried him."

It certainly worked out. Beside his goal and assist, Bolland played a physical game. He couldn't be moved from the front of the net.

"That's another reason why it's so important to have a good first period," said Hunter. "If you have a good first period you're going to get a lot more ice time."

It's not unusual to see Hunter insert two or three players on the same line during a period.

"But I like to keep two players together all the time," he said. "Corey plays with Dylan and Dave and Schremp play together."

Once the Knights were ahead by two, it was lights out. Hunter put the line of Rick Steadman, Brandon Prust and Trevor Kell together and they played against the Greyhounds' top line centred by Londoner Jeff Carter, who is leading the league rumour mill on how many teams he may be traded to. At day's end, he was still a member of the Greyhounds.

But back to Steadman, Prust and Kell. They made Carter and company practically disappear.

"They did a good job. Carter didn't get a point, did he?" asked Hunter.

No he didn't, emphasizing just what most teams are finding out. The Knights have a lot of ways to beat you.

Even on days when they don't have a lot of pop.


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