Tough for Knights to pull away

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

When the Guelph Storm come into the John Labatt Centre today, Easter Monday, the belief is they will need a resurrection of Easter-like proportions to get back into this playoff series.

The London Knights lead the best-of-seven Ontario Hockey League quarter-final 2-0 with Game 3 tonight.

Despite how close the first two games have been, the Knights have badly outshot and outchanced the Storm. Without the work of former Knights netminder Ryan MacDonald the games would have been runaways.

Yet no one is counting this series as done. The Storm believe they can play better and more importantly, they believe that given a few bounces this series would at worst be tied.

The Storm have given the Knights a tough time all season and only when they register their fourth win in this series will they feel they are rid of a jinx.

Aside from MacDonald, the highlights so far have been the intensity of the games and what has become an unwanted standard during the playoffs -- plenty of clutching and grabbing.

"They're just playing defensive hockey," Knights coach Dale Hunter said. "There's clutching and grabbing. It's tough for the skill guys. That's why the NHL is trying to take it out of the game so the skill guys can play.

"Not getting frustrated is the key thing. I don't care about the clutching so much. The frustration because you aren't scoring . . . After a whistle the guy is holding you and you give him a whack and you go to the box. That's what I worry about."

London has a 15-10 advantage in power plays, but since the teams are first and second in the league in killing penalties, the power plays have struggled.

The Storm haven't scored an even-strength goal in the series.

"That's another area that we need to figure out to create some opportunities in their end," said Storm coach Dave Barr.

Barr also addressed the issue of penalties and the Knights' ability to draw them.

"They get scoring chances, and usually that's where a lot of penalties are taken -- when guys are getting scoring opportunities.

"They have some guys who are strong on the puck and some other moments they're flipping their feet in the air."

Sounds like he's talking about the art of taking a dive.

"I don't know about that," Hunter said. "Guelph is known for diving. Did you see them in the third period trying to draw a penalty? They were falling all over the place. It's not just us" that think they are divers.

Knights assistant Jeff Perry coached the Sarnia Sting in a playoff series against Guelph when Dustin Brown was a member of the Storm. "It was so bad, the fans used to (call him) Fall Down Brown," Perry said.

Although the Knights must be frustrated at their inability to score more goals, the Storm must be discouraged by their failure to create more scoring chances and by the number of chances they're giving up.

"What might be a little downer when you see the shots on goal is the shots, or the lack thereof, we've created," Barr said. "We've been talking to the players about when we do have opportunities, we've got to get shots on net."

It doesn't get any easier for Guelph. The Knights will get sharper. The tough games are just what they needed. They coasted through the last few weeks of the season and sat several players the final weekend.

Bryan Rodney sat out a four-game suspension. He, too, will only get better. He survived a tough night in Guelph, running into the goal-post and taking a shot on the leg, having to be helped off both times.

Rodney will play tonight and hopes the rust will be gone.

With Knights defenceman Jeff Whitfield gone for up to four weeks with a pin in his ankle, London has gone mainly with four defenceman.

The team will add some insurance for tonight's game by bringing up Scott Aarssen, who played a great deal for the St. Thomas Stars before they were eliminated by the Chatham Maroons in the Western junior B league final.

Aarssen was the league's most valuable rookie defenceman this season. He'll get a first-hand look at what a major junior rivalry is all about.


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