Knights mull net strategy

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:52 AM ET

With a mighty collection of home wins, road wins, comeback wins and blowout wins, the London Knights have proved much with their victory variety this season. But the one question all those wins has yet to sort out is the same that has dogged Canada's top-rated junior hockey team for the better part of two years.

Who's the go-to goalie?

Is it Adam Dennis, whom the Knights made a deadline-beating trade with Guelph to get in January?

Or is it mainstay Gerald Coleman, who has had to battle for his fair share of crease time ever since he showed up from the mean streets of urban Illinois?

Most in hockey will tell you that playing musical chairs with your goalies rarely leads to championships.

That's a big reason why the Knights are taking a day-to-day approach on goaltending and won't commit to constantly alternating Dennis and Coleman the rest of the way.

"I don't know what we'll do yet," head coach Dale Hunter said yesterday. "We just have to wait and see how it goes. It can change at any time.

"Most goalies you see play better when they're at home but we've been pleased with both of our guys so far."

The Knights alternated goaltenders during their first-round, four-game sweep of Guelph, which meant Dennis didn't get a chance to play in his old stomping grounds and Coleman didn't get to play a game in front of the green-clad fans at the friendly confines of the John Labatt Centre.

"I started the season playing four straight road games when I was alternating with Ryan (ex-Knight goalie Ryan MacDonald)," said Coleman, who turns 20 tomorrow.

"I don't mind playing on the road. In a way, there's less pressure. You don't feel everyone critiquing the way you play. A lot of the people, when you're on the road, listen to the radio so they don't always see the games."

He smiled at that last thought, thinking back to his behind-the-net puck-handling gaffe that led to a Guelph goal in Game 4.

Coleman has been solid during the bus trips this season and nearly ended the regular season undefeated away from the JLC.

"I didn't have a road loss until the last game of the season (a 4-2 defeat in Sault Ste. Marie)," he said, "so I'm comfortable there."

The Knights didn't dress many of their regular players for that final tilt so you can make the case it didn't hold a lot of weight.

Dennis, who would start Game 1 of the Knights' second-round series if the alternating system continues, said he isn't used to the back-and-forth system, but he's in favour of whatever keeps the Knights winning.

"Last year in Guelph, (Storm goalie Danny Taylor) played a first-round game, but then I pretty much went the rest of the way," said the 20-year-old, who led Guelph to the OHL title and Memorial Cup tournament. "We don't make those decisions. All I can do is play well when I get the chance and support Gerald when he's in there. For me, I don't care if we play Erie, Kitchener or Windsor if they make a big comeback. Home or road, it doesn't matter, but it's always nice to have people cheering you."

Both goalies are eager to get back into game action, although they realize that won't happen until Wednesday night (the OHL-approved starting date for second-round series) or possibly Friday because of JLC bookings.

If the Kitchener-Erie first-round series goes to a Game 7 on Monday, the Knights will likely opt to drop the puck on Wednesday to give their opponent little recovery time.

"As long as the other teams keep beating each other up while we're practising and staying healthy, we're all for that," Dennis said.

The battle in the Knights crease, however, still shows no signs of being resolved.

PLAYOFF TICKETS

Tickets to the Western Conference final and OHL championship series go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. Tickets will be available at the Knights box office at the John Labatt Centre, the London Knights souvenir store on Talbot St., by calling 681-0800, through Ticketmaster outlets or online at www.ticketmaster.ca.

Prices: Third round $19 (adult), $17.50 (student/senior), $16.50 (kids); fourth round $22 (adult), $20.50 (student/senior), $19.50 (kids).


Videos

Photos