Fritsche buoyed by first as Knight

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

KITCHENER -- Dan Fritsche will take it, even if his first goal as a London Knight was an empty-netter and didn't come until his third game with his new team.

"It's important for me. A goal's a goal, no matter how you get it," Fritsche said yesterday after the Knights survived a third-period scare by the Kitchener Rangers to win 5-3 before a crowd of 6,370 at the Memorial Auditorium.

It was the Knights' eighth straight win. They're 38-2-2-0.

Fritsche was obtained a week ago from the Sarnia Sting at the OHL trade deadline and even though he'd played only two league games this season after shoulder surgery in September, he came to London with much fanfare.

He scored 32 goals in 2002-03 and was in the NHL for 19 games last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It's important for everyone's confidence and I'm glad I finally got one," Fritsche said after his goal with 27 seconds remaining.

"Friday night (a 4-1 win over Brampton), I had more shots than I've ever had in an OHL game and that was kind of frustrating.

"I wanted to get things going for me today, so as I said, that was a pretty important goal for me and my confidence in general."

It also came at a good time for the Knights with the Rangers trailing 4-3 and pressing for the equalizer.

Fritsche stood up to a shot by defenceman Andre Benoit at the London blue-line, then raced down on a breakaway to put the puck in the empty net.

Teammate Brandon Prust jokingly said afterward in the dressing room he thought about starting a fight so the referee would have had to whistle the play dead.

"I never would have talked to you again," Fritsche said, breaking into a smile.

"But after I scored, I looked at the ref and said 'Please, no penalties.' I figured something was going to happen."

When the Knights went to retrieve the puck for Fritsche, the Rangers' David Clarkson almost touched off a riot -- again -- by picking it up and heading for the bench.

Clarkson did the same at the end of a game here Dec. 8 when the Knights won 5-3 to tie the Canadian Hockey League record of 30 games without a loss.

And, just like that game, the Rangers eventually turned over the puck to the Knights.

Fritsche's goal was important. The Rangers had made a game of it with Clarkson scoring his second of the game at 14:04 of the third period, followed by Patrick Davis a minute and 10 seconds later.

"We got a little too comfortable," Fritsche said. "After the first goal we didn't realize it was only a two-goal game. I'm sure we all learned from that and it won't happen again."

Blocking Benoit's shot may have been critical.

"People don't realize how important little things like that are," Fritsche said.

"That's the thing with this team. People don't realize the reason we've had so much success is everyone's heart is so big and they're willing to lay down their body.

"If that shot gets through, everyone is driving to the net and very easily it could get pounded in. Coach Dale (Hunter) stresses you do whatever you have to do."

Clarkson scored two minutes into the game, then Drew Larman and Bryan Rodney scored to give the Knights a 2-1 lead after one period.

Josh Beaulieu and David Bolland made it 4-1 London in the second period.

Larman set up a perfect screen leading to Beaulieu's goal, showing the Knights will sacrifice their bodies at both ends of the ice.

"You've got to sacrifice your body to make the play," Larman said. "It's what needs to be done."

Larman, who came to the Knights this season from Sarnia, said he was cheering for his former Sting teammate to bag the empty-net goal.

"He's been real frustrated the last couple games," Larman said of Fritsche. "That put the game away. There was still 25 seconds left.

"We need a player like that. He's a premier player and a great guy in the room."

Larman joked when he spoke about Fritsche's first with London being an empty-netter. "My first goal with Sarnia (in 2002-03) was in an empty net. They don't ask how, they just ask how many."

The game was feisty as the Knights swept the six games with the Rangers.

Asked about the London-Kitchener rivalry, Larman said: "We swept them. I don't know now much of a rivalry there is."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 5, Rangers 3

London goals: Drew Larman, Bryan Rodney, Josh Beaulieu, David Bolland, Dan Fritsche

Kitchener goals: David Clarkson (2), Patrick Davis

Next: The Knights, bumped out of the John Labatt Centre by the Canadian figure skating championships, are in Belleville on Wednesday, Peterbrough on Thursday, Kingston on Friday and Ottawa on Sunday.


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