Deal stokes Coleman's fire

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:07 AM ET

Gerald Coleman was a little shaken when he got the call Monday night, but the London Knights goaltender feels he can handle the situation.

It's not the first time his status with the Knights has come under scrutiny, so when the team dealt for Guelph Storm goalie Adam Dennis, Coleman decided it only presents another challenge.

"I definitely do feel they still have confidence in me," Coleman said yesterday at the John Labatt Centre. "I've been playing so well, I don't see any reason they shouldn't."

Coleman leads the OHL in every category -- a 1.67 goals-against average; .940 save percentage; 20-1-2 record -- and yet, management felt it necessary to get Dennis, a London-killer in last season's Western Conference final.

Dennis, third in the OHL with a .930 save percentage, and Coleman also combined for a 0-0 tie the night the Knights established a record 31-game unbeaten streak.

"It's a little bothersome because you know you're doing so well in the first part of the year, but say if I get hurt or something happens, they have a guy who has been through it," Coleman said of Dennis, who went to last year's Memorial Cup.

"He can help me and teach me a few things along the way. I still want the team to win. If I'm not in net when we win the championship, I'll be happy because I'm still part of the team."

Knights goalie coach Dave Rook said the plan is for Coleman to start tomorrow night against Kitchener at the JLC.

"I'm not sure if we have a No. 1," Rook said, "but you can't argue with Gerald's numbers. He's proved he's a capable No. 1.

"But this is a great situation for the team. We have so much depth up front, so much depth on defence and now we have quite a bit of depth in goal.

"You can't argue with what Gerald has done this year and as far as I'm concerned, it's his spot to lose. It's whoever plays best. It's a challenge for both of them."

Rook knows the fragile psyche of a goalie and phoned Coleman following the trade.

"I just more or less told him we didn't bring Adam in" because the team thought "you couldn't do the job."

"We have confidence in Gerald. He's just got to keep competing. He's OK. Gerald has come a long way confidence-wise and he's very comfortable with the way he's playing."

Coleman said he took Rook at his word after the Knights sent goalie Ryan MacDonald and fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round draft picks in 2006 to Guelph.

"I'm not going to lie, I was a little worried," Coleman said, figuring the Knights might trade him.

"(But ) I definitely do feel they still have confidence in me.

"But I was a little disappointed Ryan was leaving. We'd gone through a lot of highs and lows the past couple of years and it was nice to push each other. Now he's in a situation where he'll get played and I'm back to the same situation.

"It's going to be a new task now. Adam Dennis is obviously a good goalie."

Dennis sees it as healthy competition.

"The key is we are part of a team and we are going to push each other. "It's a healthy competition that can only benefit the team. I think that's the main thing.

"There are so many good players on the team, but everyone is going to have to do their part and make it work."

Dennis said he has no problem sitting on the bench, "as long as the team's winning.

"It makes it a lot easier to take. But I think it's going to be a great situation. I don't think there's going to be any problems."

Dennis is excited to be playing for the home team.

"It's going to be nice having the fans behind me this time, rather than against me. I'm comfortable in this building. I like the big crowds. It's a great atmosphere to play in. It's so hard not to get up for games in this building."

He said not many players get a second run at the Memorial Cup, where the Storm lost all three round-robin games in 2004.

"I've been given a great opportunity here and hopefully we'll take advantage of it," he said. "We've got a great opportunity and a great team, so there's no reason we shouldn't."


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