Knights tab Dennis playoff starter

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

PLYMOUTH, MICH. -- No real surprise here: Adam Dennis will start the OHL playoffs in goal for the London Knights. Creasemate Gerald Coleman may have the best numbers in the Canadian Hockey League, but Dennis knows the Knights' first-round opponent inside out. He played with the Guelph Storm for more than 2 1/2 seasons before being traded to London Jan. 10.

"It came down to familiarity . . . Adam knows the team very well," Knights head coach Dale Hunter said last night.

The Storm have yet to announce who'll start for them on Thursday, but don't be surprised if it's Ryan MacDonald.

The Knights dealt him to the Storm to get Dennis after he was outstanding in last year's conference final, when Guelph upset London in seven games then went on to win the OHL championship.

MacDonald will be looking for revenge after being traded away by the Memorial Cup-bound Knights after he set an OHL record last season with a 2.06 goals-against average.

Coleman will erase that record this season as he carries a CHL-best 1.64 goals-against average into tonight's final regular-season game in Sault Ste.Marie.

Coleman, 32-1-2, also leads the CHL with eight shutouts, one off the OHL record, and a .943 save percentage.

"I'm disappointed," Coleman said. "With all the work I've done all year, I thought maybe I'd get a chance, but they brought (Dennis) in because of what happened last year and they think he can do it again here for London.

"All I can do is sit back and hope I get a chance. We talked and they said the might think about rotating."

Dennis played in last night's loss to the Plymouth Whalers and has 17-15-6 record (12-4-0 with the Knights), a 2.09 goals-against average, .937 save percentage and six shutouts.

"I feel for both kids," said Hunter, who consultted with the entire coaching staff, before making his choice.

Goalie coach Dave Rook had explained the situation to both goalies Friday, but Hunter didn't reveal it publicly until before last night's game.

"Every kid wants to play," Hunter said. "The toughest part about a goalie is you can only play one.

"That's the toughest part of being a goalie -- you're either in or you're out. You can't go down to the third or fourth line (like a forward)."

Hunter said the choice to start Dennis is for Game 1 and by no means should anyone read any more into it.

"I don't worry about the future," he said. "Adam will start against Guelph.

"Gerald played well against Kitchener," Hunter added, as the Rangers are a potential second-round opponent.


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