Perry hits 40-goal mark again

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET

PLYMOUTH, MICH. -- Mission accomplished -- well, at least one mission. London Knights right-winger Corey Perry scored his 40th goal last night to match last season's output, helping the Knights to a 5-1 victory over the Plymouth Whalers.

The Knights are now 52-5-2-0 with their 26th road win.

Goalie Adam Dennis came within four minutes 15 seconds of registering the team's 11th shutout before Dan Collins banged home a rebound for the Whalers' only goal.

Dennis kicked out 23 other shots as the Knights remain tied with the 1997-98 Ottawa 67's for the most shutouts in OHL history.

Perry, tied with Erie's Geoff Platt and Owen Sound's Brad Richardson for the goal-scoring lead, also collected one assist and leads the league with 107 points.

He's poised to become only the third Knight in the team's 40-year history to win the scoring title. Dave Simpson won in 1981-82 and Jason Allison in 1993-94.

"It's getting tougher to score," Perry said."It's getting down to the nitty-gritty as everybody is battling for playoff spots.

"It's tight D (defence) out there, but everybody is battling through it and that's all that matters."

Perry said he wanted to repeat the 40 goals he scored last season, when he finished second in the league scoring race with 113 points.

"I wanted to make sure I got the 40 in and I give a lot of credit to the guys who have played on my line," he said.

"Also the D gets a lot of credit. They're getting the puck up to us. They're battling for the puck in our end and sacrificing their bodies, or I wouldn't have that many."

Defenceman Bryan Rodney got it going with his 19th goal at 7:42 of the first period.

Rodney, cruising in from the high slot, took a pass from Dan Fritsche and buried a wrist shot high over the glove hand of Whalers goalie Justin Garay.

Josh Beaulieu took a pass from Drew Larman and broke through the Plymouth defence to make it 2-0 at 12:10.

David Bolland then notched his 33rd at 13:18, whacking in a rebound after Garay had stopped Perry. There was no light from the goal judge but referee Ryan O'Neill emphatically signalled a goal.

Perry made it 4-0, scoring unassisted during a two-man advantage at 9:21 of the second period. He beat Garay with a slapshot from the top of the left faceoff circle.

Collins' goal at 15:45 of the third came on power-play, with Perry off for high-sticking at 13:50.

Larman then capped the scoring at 17:56.

The Knights' overall defensive play has them headed for a record as they'll break their own mark for fewest goals against, which they set last season at 147.

They're on pace to allow just 128 after giving up 112 in the first 59 games.

Assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu, who handles the defence, said the key has been keeping the shots to the perimeter.

But the Knights also knew that with an experienced blue-line returning, "we thought we had a chance to beat it. We definitely talked about it at the start of the season."

Interestingly, goals are down across the league. In the past 10 years, teams have gone from averaging four goals a game to three a game and the average goals per team on the season has dropped from 270 to 210.

"It's the trap," Beaulieu said, adding that makes it even tougher on the defence, so the Knights' goals-against is a tremendous achievement, besides making Perry's quest even more noteworthy.

"The trap makes it hard on our D," Beaulieu said. "They have to either get it out of our end off the glass or high flips.

"If you try to skate the puck, you're going to skate into the trap. If you try to pass the puck, you're going to pass it into the trap.

"With young kids, you have to teach them and groom them."

Beaulieu said unfortunately that style of play eliminates a lot of the skill factor.

"What teams are doing in the neutral zone, they're doing that just to eliminate our chances," he said.

GAME GLANCE

Knights 5, Whalers 1

London goals: Bryan Rodney, Josh Beaulieu, David Bolland, Corey Perry, Drew Larman

Plymouth goal: Dan Collins

Next: The Knights play in Sarnia tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. They return to the John Labatt Centre against Erie on Thursday at 7 p.m., then play Saginaw at the JLC on Friday at 7:30 p.m.


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