Knights know how to stay cool

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

It was an hour before the London Knights and Brampton Battalion began their game.

Knights assistant coach Jeff Perry was talking about what makes the team so good.

The words poise and maturity came up.

Three-and-a-half hours later, the Knights proved Perry's point. The Knights defeated the Battalion 4-2 in Brampton last night.

Perry was talking about maturity, about the ability to handle pressure and the habit this team has of rising to the occasion when needed.

Why not prove the assistant coach right?

With little more than three minutes left in the game and the Knights leading 3-2, they were handed a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. Even though the Battalion had been badly outshot in the game, they were coming on before a franchise-record crowd of 4,835 loud and raucous fans.

They smelled blood.

They found out why the Knights have only lost four games all season. Not only did the Knights not wilt, but they also prevented the Battalion from getting a shot on net during the power play.

"That's what I mean," Perry said after the game. "They are calm, show great composure. They are showing maturity as a team and winning does that for you. You get a penalty late in the game and you don't skip a beat."

The penalty was really a microcosm of how to win close games. Bryan Rodney, Danny Syvret, Drew Larman and Dan Fritsche all blocked shots. Players on the penalty-killing unit didn't do any running around. Their rather calm demeanour should have belonged to a team with a three-goal lead, not one goal with a penalty to kill.

"We just cover the basics," said Rodney. "It's not like we need the points, so we just want to get better, improve every game and go into the playoffs firing on all cylinders."

They are doing that. Even on nights when their best players aren't firing on all cylinders they find a way to win. It's professional, businesslike. It's difficult to play the Knights because the opposition can't take a break. Any letup and they will sting you.

It's why even when teams are trailing the Knights, they continue to play tight hockey. They are afraid to open up the game.

As the Knights travel through an historic OHL season, things that have been considered exceptional at any other time have become mere footnotes in an encyclopedia of amazing events.

An 11-game win streak hardly causes an eyebrow to rise. A win streak of 15 games away from home. Ho-hum. Successive 100-point seasons is outstanding, but it's blunted somewhat by the fact there will be more points. A record isn't discovered until days after it's been broken because so many have fallen and will continue to fall.

Last night was a good test for the Knights. They were in a packed building playing a team that has only lost five games at home all season. Even though the Knights outshot the Battalion 48-25, Kevin Couture gave Brampton outstanding goaltending.

Still the Knights won.

"We're in a great state of mind right now," said Perry. "We don't hope to win, we expect to win. But we've still lost four times and that means that four times we weren't ready. And there were other times when we had to come back in the third period so we realize we still have to work. We seem to rise to the occasion."

Perry puts the exclamation point on why this team plays as it does.

"The maturity level of this team is extraordinary."

Not many would argue with that.


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