Knights stage epic charge

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:24 AM ET

This was the one the London Knights were supposed to lose -- and they had a built-in excuse. Three star players, forwards Corey Perry and David Bolland and defenceman Danny Syvret, were at the Canadian junior team selection camp in Winnipeg.

It was the day the Knights' record-smashing unbeaten streak would end. The only thing is, somebody forgot to tell them.

Defenceman Bryan Rodney scored 35 seconds into overtime yesterday for a 4-3 win over the Kitchener Rangers after the Knights trailed 3-0 entering the third period.

They're now unbeaten in 31 games -- 29 wins and two ties -- as they continue to build on the Canadian Hockey League record they set Friday with a 0-0 tie against Guelph.

"It was a tall order for us, a lot of guys were playing different positions and with different guys, but there's a lot of key factors here that didn't leave who are a big reason we went 30 games without losing," Rodney said after his goal sent the sellout John Labatt Centre crowd of 9,055 into a wild celebration.

The players poured off the bench to mob Rodney in a scene far more emotional than at the end of Friday's game.

Rodney said nobody should have counted them out. "We expect ourselves to win every night, as crazy as that sounds."

Rodney said he could feel it in the dressing room during the second intermission. "Everybody looked in each other's eyes and we wanted to win."

Andre Benoit gave Kitchener a 1-0 lead at 8:37 of the first period, then back-to-back goals by David Clarkson at 9:08 and 10:33 of the second was the end for Knights starting goalie Gerald Coleman.

It was only the second time they've made a goaltending change. The other was after falling behind Windsor 3-0 on Dec. 3, with Coleman replacing Ryan MacDonald.

And just like on that night, when Coleman stopped everything he saw in the Knights' 4-3 victory, MacDonald kicked out all 10 shots he faced.

"There was no pressure," MacDonald said. "After the second period, a lot of guys stepped up and said 'Let's play 20 minutes hard and see what happens.' "

MacDonald was only being honest when he said: "I didn't expect us to come back."

Ryan Pottruff, in only his third game since recovering from a broken leg and only his first on defence since training camp, scored the Knights' first goal at 2:21 of the third.

"He's a defenceman and where does he bang it in from? The top of the crease," said coach Dale Hunter.

"We were desperate. It was hell bent for leather. There was no rhyme or reason. No systems. We had to score. It was an all-out blitz."

Hunter said he could feel the players come to life after Pottruff's goal.

"The character and pride, you can see it in them. And it's all of them, too, not just one or two. And once you get one, people say 'Oh yeah, we can score.'

"And remember, it's been a long time since we scored. You forget how, so you start squeezing a little harder on your stick."

The Knights began mounting their comeback but there was a mountain of a goaltender standing in their path, six-foot-six Dan Turple. He made sensational back-to-back saves on Dylan Hunter, then Rob Schremp minutes after Pottruff's goal.

Another team might have given up, but not the Knights.

Brandon Prust turned Rangers defenceman Matt Lashoff inside out to score London's second goal at 11:13.

"We could have made excuses, but other kids stepped up, and Prustie made a dangle," Dale Hunter said. "That was a Corey Perry.

Rob Schremp, who joins the U.S. team on Thursday for the world juniors, tied it with his 26th of the season with 1:50 remaining in regulation.

His shot struck Turple on the pad, then bounded high in the air, where it seemed to hang forever. It finally came down behind Turple and rolled into the net.

"It drove me nuts," Schremp said. "I thought it missed the net. . . . Then it went in and I went from mad to happy."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 4, Rangers 3 (OT)

London goals: Ryan Pottruff, Brandon Prust, Rob Schremp and Bryan Rodney, 35 seconds into overtime

Kitchener goals: David Clarkson (2), Andre Benoit

Next: The Knights play the Sudbury Wolves on Friday at the John Labatt Centre at 7:30 p.m., then the Guelph Storm Saturday at the JLC at 6 p.m.


Videos

Photos