Ex-Storm can feel it brewing

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

London Knights goalie Adam Dennis and defenceman Dan Girardi are now the hunted.

After doing the OHL's version of trading places in January, the two former Guelph Storm players have drawn their former teammates in the first round of the playoffs.

The best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final opens tomorrow night at the John Labatt Centre.

"I'm definitely a little nervous, but I'm really excited to get started," Girardi said yesterday.

"It's going to be odd at first, then after the first couple of shifts everybody is going to hate each other, just like last year" when the Storm beat the Knights in the conference final.

"We surprised ourselves," Girardi said of that series.

"We just came in willing to work hard and we banged London hard. I definitely do not want the same thing to happen on this side this year."

The spotlight will be on the two goalies, Dennis and Ryan MacDonald, who were swapped at the trade deadline.

Dennis knows the one thought that's on the minds of his old teammates -- spoiler.

"That's going to be everyone's mind-set coming in against us and we've got to be prepared for it," he said. "We want to spoil their parade just as much as they want to spoil ours. It goes both ways."

Last season, although Guelph finished only seven points behind London, the Storm kept saying they were the underdogs.

This season, they really are, finishing 63 points behind.

"I know they're going in with the attitude they can win this series, and so they should, it's the playoffs and anything can happen," Dennis said. "We're going to have to earn this."

Dennis said goalies are used to pressure. It comes with the territory, but they learn at an early age to block it out.

"You think about the next save that's ahead of you, and that's it," he said.

The Knights played two games in Guelph after the trade, Dennis and MacDonald hooking up both times, with each winning a game.

"That awkwardness is all over," Dennis said of going back into his old rink.

"Those two games were huge for Dan and I just to get the jitters out so we don't have to worry about the (Guelph) crowd anymore."

Besides MacDonald, Rick Steadman and Ryan Pottruff are also with Guelph and all have something to prove after being traded from the Memorial Cup-bound Knights.

"Can't wait," MacDonald told the Kitchener Record. "Ever since I got traded (Jan. 10), that's what's on your mind -- try to show them up, try to make them regret what they did.

"It's the same with anyone who gets traded. They want to stick it to them."

Knights head coach Dale Hunter wasn't surprised by MacDonald's comments.

"You expect that," he said. "Everybody does that after they've been traded."

But Hunter is also aware of what a hot goalie can do.

"A goalie can steal a series," he said after Dennis's performance last year.

"We've been there, too. Chris Houle was outstanding against Plymouth, when they finished first and we were eighth," Hunter said of the 2002 first-round series when the Knights knocked off the Whalers in six games after finishing 27 points behind Plymouth.

Knights goalie coach Dave Rook said he wouldn't expect anything less from MacDonald. "Ryan wants to prove that we made a mistake."

When asked "Did you?" Rook replied: "Time will tell.

"Ryan's a competitor and if he gets the chance, I think he'd like to do to us what he did to us up there in Guelph (the 2-1 Storm win on Feb. 20).

"But Adam's got something to prove, too. We traded a good goalie away for him and he's battling Gerald (Coleman) for the spot, so he's still got something to prove as far as earning his spot in the playoffs."

KNIGHTS VS. STORM

Best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final

Thursday: at London, 7 p.m.

Friday: at Guelph, 7:30 p.m.

Monday: at London, 7 p.m.

Tuesday: at Guelph, 7 p.m.

Thursday, March 31: at London, 7 p.m., if nec.

Friday, April 1: at Guelph, 7:30 p.m., if nec.

Monday, April 4: at London, 7 p.m., if nec.

OTHER FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS

OHL

Western Conference

Sault. Ste. Marie Greyhounds (2)

vs. Windsor Spitfires (7)

The Greyhounds (33-25-9-1), the West Division champions, take on the Spitfires (26-29-6-7) in a battle of two teams searching for post-season success. The Soo hasn't won a playoff series since reaching the conference final in 2000, while Windsor has gone three years without a series victory.

Owen Sound Attack (3)

vs. Plymouth Whalers (6)

The Attack (40-18-7-3), who finished a distant second in the Western Conference, open against the Whalers (30-29-6-3). Owen Sound was the only OHL team besides London to register 40 wins and went 3-0-1 against the Whalers in the regular season.

Kitchener Rangers (4)

vs. Erie Otters (5)

The Rangers (35-20-9-4), who have home-ice advantage, won six of nine regular season meetings with the Otters (31-26-6-5), who captured the OHL championship in 2002. The two teams have never met in the postseason.

Eastern Conference

Mississauga IceDogs (1) vs.

Toronto-St. Michael's Majors (8)

The IceDogs (34-21-12-1) are the conference's top seed for the first time in their seven-year history. They play the Majors (29-30-6-3) in a rematch of last year's conference final, won by the IceDogs in six.

Peterborough Petes (2)

vs. Belleville Bulls (7)

The Petes (34-21-9-4) won their first division title in 12 years but haven't won a postseason series since 1997 -- the longest drought in the Eastern Conference -- while Belleville (29-29-6-4) returns to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus.

Barrie Colts (3)

vs. Ottawa 67's (6)

The Colts (33-23-9-3) begin their quest for a third championship appearance in the past six seasons against the 67's (34-26-7-1), who haven't won a league title since 1984. The 67's won three of four regular season meetings.

Brampton Battalion (4)

vs. Sudbury Wolves (5)

The Battalion (33-24-9-2), who reached the second round in each of the past two seasons, were 4-3-1 this season against the Wolves (32-23-6-7), who haven't won a playoff series since 2001.


Videos

Photos