Shutout run steers Knights toward record

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:04 AM ET

Gerald Coleman is a big zero and is helping the London Knights rewrite the record books in what already has been a record-smashing season for the OHL club.

Coleman's back-to-back 5-0 victories over the Kingston Frontenacs on Friday and the Ottawa 67's on Sunday were his fifth and sixth shutouts of the season, a record for a Knights goaltender.

Coleman, 19, from Evanston, Ill., set the team mark last season with five after Gene Chiarello registered four in 1997-98. Coleman now has 12 in three seasons.

The six shutouts are also the third-most in an OHL season, tying him with the legendary Glenn Hall, who played with the Windsor Spitfires in 1950-51 before moving on to the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, and J. F. Perras, who was with the Erie Otters in 1999-2000.

Nine is the league record, established by Don Lockhart of the Toronto Marlboros in 1949-50. Len Broderick of the Marlies had eight in 1956-57.

Coleman, born in Chicago, was excited to learn his name is now beside Hall in the OHL book. "That's not too bad," he said, breaking into a big smile.

"I was a huge Blackhawk fan and I've done something one of the greatest goalies in Blackhawk history did. I didn't even realize I broke (the team record) until somebody told me."

The Canadian Hockey League record for shutouts in a season is 13, set last year by Kelly Guard of the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Hockey League.

With the two shutouts Ryan MacDonald registered before being traded to the Guelph Storm on Jan. 10, the Knights have eight for the season, tying them for third in OHL history with the 1998-99 Plymouth Whalers and 2000-01 Otters.

The record is 10, held by the 1997-98 Ottawa 67's, with Craig Hillier (six shutouts) and Seamus Kotyk of London (four) as the goalies.

The 67's registered nine the next season with Kotyk (five) and Levente Szuper (four) in the net.

"I think we can get that record," Coleman said. "Adam (Dennis, obtained from the Storm in the MacDonald deal) is an unbelievable goalie and he has three shutouts to his credit as well, and he did it with Guelph, which is not a great team."

Coleman and Dennis were the goalies when the Knights and Storm tied 0-0 on Dec. 10 as London broke the CHL's 29-game undefeated record.

The CHL record for shutouts in a season is 14, accomplished by Kelowna last season.

Coleman leads the OHL in every category -- a 1.60 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage, a 24-1-2 record, plus his six shutouts -- and still wasn't chosen for next Wednesday's all-star game in Owen Sound.

Knights coach Dale Hunter said Coleman deserves to be in the game.

USA Hockey also missed the boat in not selecting him for the world junior championship. The U.S. finished fourth.

"With his stats, it's unfortunate," Hunter said. "He should have been at the world juniors, too. The U.S. made a mistake there."

Coleman has a good shot at the OHL goals-against record -- 2.06, set by MacDonald last season. The CHL mark is 1.56, set last season by Guard. But as remarkable as Coleman's numbers are, there are critics who say that because he sees only 26 shots a game on average, his good stats are due to the fact he has such a strong team in front of him.

"That's what I've been hearing ever since the all-star teams were named -- that I didn't make it because of the way the team's been playing," Coleman said.

But a credit to him is the fact that it's hard for a goalie to sustain such a good save percentage when he isn't getting many shots.

"If they score one goal on every nine shots, that can bring it down below .900, so you have to make do on your chances you get and stop every one you can," Coleman said.

"We don't give up a lot of scoring chances, so it's hard to stay focused. But any goalie who can stay focused throughout a whole game has to be a good goalie."

Hunter said agreed.

"It's tough when you don't get a lot of shots," the former NHLer said. "Ken Dryden went through it with the old Montreal Canadiens and he had to be sharp all the time.

"You've got to be awake all the time. When you're feeling the puck all game, you're feeling good about yourself. But this is tough."

KNIGHTWATCH

Next: The London Knights meet the Sarnia Sting tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre starting at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday: The Knights are in Owen Sound for a 7:30 p.m. game.

Sunday: The Kingston Frontenacs are at the JLC. Game time: 6 p.m.


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