Knights' goalie ploy works

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET

GUELPH -- The London Knights are looking for musical chair goalies to lead them to a victory march over the Guelph Storm. The strategy is working. Last night, they grabbed a 2-0 series lead in their best-of-seven OHL Western Conference quarter-final with a 2-1 win over the Storm.

The Knights went with Gerald Coleman after Adam Dennis played Thursday's opener, won 3-2 by the Knights.

Coleman had an OHL-record 1.70 goals-against average in the regular season -- best in the Canadian Hockey League -- but the Knights felt it best they start Dennis, the former Storm netminder obtained Jan. 10.

London gave up goalie Ryan MacDonald, who has been brilliant in the first two games, as well as three draft picks.

The Knights outshot the Storm 36-14 last night, including 13-2 in the second period, after 54-25 in Game 1.

David Bolland broke the 1-1 tie two minutes into the second period. Standing just off the side of the crease, he converted a pass from the far corner by Corey Perry.

It stands to reason Dennis will return for Game 3 Monday back home. "It looks like we could rotate, but I don't want to say for sure," coach Dale Hunter said.

Coleman doesn't seem to mind the mind games the Knights are playing with the opposition -- and even with their own people -- by keeping everyone guessing.

"I look at it as a big mental challenge," Coleman said. "Dale has always been trying to push me and get me to exceed my limits and get me mentally tough.

"It's a little nerve-racking because Ryan stood on his head for the second game in a row and he's proving his point of why maybe he should have stayed . . . but it's fun."

Coleman gave the defence credit for easing his workload, especially with the two shots in the second period.

"That's what's been going on all year. That's the kind of team we are. We'll only give up one, two scoring chances a period and you have to be ready."

Goalie coach Dave Rook said there's a reason for rotating.

"Both are top-end goalies and it was done just to keep both of them going and ready, just in case something happens and one of them hasn't played in three weeks."

Dennis appeared to have a bit of the jitters on Thursday, fighting the puck at times. But Rook said that didn't affect the decision to go with Coleman.

"Adam was very pumped, but on both goals he didn't have a chance . . . and this decision isn't a reflection on the way he played, just a matter of Gerald proved himself and we're keeping him ready."

The teams traded goals in the first period, with the Knights striking just 1:31 in.

After Perry, Dan Fritsche and Dylan Hunter played the first shift, the checking line of Drew Larman, Josh Beaulieu and Trevor Kell came out.

Cycling the puck down low and behind the net, Beaulieu fed Larman in front.

"We're just all about grinding it out, but that was a big start to the game, giving us momentum right there," Larman said of the quick goal.

Coleman was tested early, stoning Storm scoring leader Ryan Callahan on a short-handed breakaway four minutes in.

Callahan got even at 7:53 on a power play.

Storm coach-GM Dave Barr, whose contract has been extended through the 2007-08 season, said with MacDonald doing his job, his team must find a way to create more scoring chances.

"We didn't create enough and they didn't give us any," he said. "They're No. 1 for a reason. They just don't make mistakes -- it seems that way, anyway -- and they capitalize on mistakes . . .

"It's hard playing such a skilled team that doesn't make many mistakes. Usually mistakes are made when you're under pressure and we haven't got enough pressure on them.

"We're down 2-0 to the best team in Canada and it's not a position we want to be in, but we've competed well with them. We've just got to figure out how to create scoring chances."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 2, Storm 1

The series: London leads the best-of-seven OHL Western Conference quarter-final 2-0

London goals: Drew Larman, David Bolland

Guelph goal: Ryan Callahan

Next: Game 3 is Monday at the John Labatt Centre at 7 p.m.


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