Whalers dump Knights

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

PLYMOUTH, MICH. -- Sixty or bust. The London Knights get one more shot at the Canadian Hockey League record for most wins in a season.

They dropped a 4-3 thriller to the Plymouth Whalers last night before a standing-room-only crowd of 3,916 at the Compuware Sports Arena.

The Knights are 59-6-2-0, with one game left in the regular schedule, which comes tonight in Sault Ste. Marie.

The CHL mark of 60 wins was set by the 1980-81 Victoria Cougars, playing a 72-game Western Hockey League schedule.

"We'd have liked to been able to go into the Sault and had the chance to break 60 wins," Knights captain Danny Syvret said after last night's game.

With six losses, the Knights missed their chance at equalling the CHL record for fewest losses in a season, which is five by the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings.

Earlier this season, the Knights beat the Wheaties' CHL-record 29-game undefeated streak, going 31 games before their first loss.

The Ontario Hockey League record for fewest losses is seven, by the 1972-73 Toronto Marlboros.

It was just the fifth time the Knights have lost on the road as they'll own that OHL record. The 1990-91 Oshawa Generals and '98-99 Ottawa 67's each had seven road losses for the previous record.

With the Knights opening the playoffs Thursday at the John Labatt Centre against Guelph, OHL scoring champion Corey Perry, Rob Schremp and Kelly Thomson did not dress last night, while defenceman Bryan Rodney served the third game of his four-game suspension for a high-sticking match penalty.

Schremp and Thomson will play tonight but head coach Dale Hunter sent Perry, Adam Dennis, Daniel Girardi, Marc Methot, Dan Fritsche, David Bolland and Dylan Hunter back to London after last night's game to rest for the playoff opener.

"Different guys are going to have to rise up," Syvret said of tonight's game. "Four of our top scorers (Perry, Hunter, Bolland and Rodney) will be out of the lineup. But if we don't get it (the win), it won't diminish what we've achieved this year.

"These are two meaningless games with regard to the point standings. It's just more of a pride thing for us."

Perry, with 130 points, including a league-high 47 goals (Erie's Geoff Platt finished with 45 after being shut out his last two games), is only the third Knight in their 40-year history to win the scoring title. Dave Simpson won in 1981-82 and Jason Allison in 1993-94.

It's the first time since the 1965-66 season that the OHL does not have a 50-goal scorer.

Back-to-back goals by Fritsche 17 seconds apart in the first period gave the Knights a 2-0 lead, with his first goal coming at 6:47. Tim Sestito got one back for the Whalers on a power play at 9:28.

The Whalers scored three unanswered goals in a penalty-filled second period. Jonas Fiedler tied it at 4:53, then Vaclav Meidl gave Plymouth the lead on the power play at 10:35. John Vigilante made it 4-2 for the Whalers at 14:22 with both teams at four skaters aside.

Things heated up in the middle period when Plymouth's Mike Knight took Fritsche heavily into the boards at 12:24. Knight got a two-minute penalty.

Jordan Foreman scored a power-play goal for the Knights at 9:26 of the third.

Steve Ferry appeared to tie it a little later, but the Plymouth net had somehow become dislodged with no players -- other than goalie Justin Garay -- in the vicinity.

Even in the final minute, with a faceoff outside the Plymouth blue line, the Whalers' net somehow again got off one of its pegs before being pointed out by the Knights.

The other teams to have the distinction of beating the Knights this season are the Sudbury Wolves (ending their record undefeated streak), the Owen Sound Attack, Belleville Bulls, Peterborough Petes and Guelph Storm.

GAME GLANCE

Whalers 4, Knights 3

Plymouth goals: Tim Sestito, Jonas Fiedler, Vaclav Meidl, John Vigilante

London goals: Dan Fritsche (2), Jordan Foreman

Next: The Knights conclude the regular season tonight in Sault Ste. Marie, game time 7 p.m.


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