Brandon Prust made good use of his 17 minutes in the penalty box last night. He spent the time figuring out how to score on former teammate Ryan MacDonald, now the Guelph Storm goalie.
Prust was out of the penalty box only 47 seconds when he scored at 17:40 of the third period, giving the London Knights a 3-2 win over the Guelph Storm in Game 1 of their OHL Western Conference quarter-final before 9,090 fans at the John Labatt Centre.
MacDonald was brilliant as London outshot Guelph 54-25. He may be looking to exact some revenge on the Memorial Cup-bound Knights after they sent him to the Storm at the Jan. 10 trade deadline in exchange for goaltender Adam Dennis.
Dennis, in net for the Knights last night, backstopped Guelph's stunning seven-game victory over the Knights in last year's conference final after most observers had already punched London's ticket to the Memorial Cup in Kelowna, B.C.
The Knights are in this year's Memorial Cup as host team (May 21-29 at the JLC) and the goaltender swap that saw London also part with three draft picks was a signal the Knights didn't believe MacDonald was the man to lead them to the promised land.
Prust had taken a slashing minor, fighting major and a 10-minute misconduct all at 19:53 of the second period.
Coach Dale Hunter put him right back on the ice after his sentence was served and the winning goal followed.
"He was fresh, he had a lot of pop and went to the net hard and got results," Hunter said. "He had good legs, and it's one of those things where good things happen when you go to the net."
Prust said he was "a little ticked off" at himself for drawing his 17 minutes in the penalty box.
"I was a little anxious in there," he said as he watched most of the third period unfold as he sat helpless.
"I couldn't wait to get out. I was a little ticked off I got that penalty, but there's nothing you can do about it. So I just waited until I got out there.
"I had lots of energy, so I was flying a little more than a couple of their (defencemen). They looked a little fatigued so I just went hard to the net."
Prust said MacDonald's play was beginning to frustrate the Knights, especially since London's shot total kept climbing but the Knights had little to show for it.
"He did frustrate us a little bit but that's one thing we can't do. We can't get frustrated," he said.
"We've just got to relax.
"We had guys banging their sticks, but you've got to go over and tell them to relax and just keep going to the net and good things will happen."
Last season, the Storm finished seven points behind the Knights. This season, London was 59-7-2-0, best in the Canadian Hockey League and 63 points ahead of Guelph.
"They're coming out here with nothing to lose," Prust said. "They're an eighth-place team and not expected to win, but they're going to come and work their butt off. . . .
"We still have a point to prove to people. What we did in the regular season doesn't count now. We're not worried about the Memorial Cup. . . . All we want is the OHL title and when we have that, we'll worry about the Cup."
The Storm scored just after the final buzzer, and despite not protesting that the goal was waved off, coach-GM Dave Barr was upset. He claimed that a combined two seconds had ticked off the clock after two previous whistles in the final minute.
Barr pointed the matter out to referee Matt Parlette on both occasions but no time was added. "We told (Parlette) the first time, 'Can someone please watch the clock?' " he said. "I don't know if he assigned a linesman to watch the clock (and) I don't want this to be the issue of why the game was won or lost. But it was a piece of the puzzle."
It had taken a fluke power-play goal by the Knights' Dan Fritsche to even the score four minutes into the third period.
He was attempting a pass from the corner -- from just behind the goal-line -- when the puck struck MacDonald's stick, which was on a bad angle, and went between his pads for a goal.
The game's first four goals all came on power plays. Guelph's Ryan Card scored the only goal of the first period at 11:49. Kelly Thomson tied it for London at 8:31 of the second, then ex-Knight Rick Steadman put the Storm ahead 2-1 at 15:40, tipping a waist-high shot by Ryan Parent past Dennis, who had been called for roughing at 14:03.
Knights 3, Storm 2
The series: London leads the best-of-seven OHL Western Conference quarter-final 1-0.
London goals: Kelly Thomson, Dan Fritsche, Brandon Prust
Guelph goals: Ryan Card, Rick Steadman
Next: Game 2 is tonight in Guelph at 7:30 p.m.