It's time to put Spits out of their misery

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

WINDSOR -- Euthanasia is illegal in Canada. Perhaps in this case, we should make an exception.

There's cruel and unusual punishment and then there's the London-Windsor playoff series.

What the Knights are doing to the Spitfires is beyond cruel -- almost as cruel as what the Spitfires are doing to themselves.

Is there really any need to put anyone through yet another of these games?

So the rules say that a best-of-seven series is a best-of-seven series. But would anyone really object if the Spitfires simply said, "No more" and simply didn't show up for Game 4 at the John Labatt Centre on Wednesday?

OK, so maybe the Hunters would be upset at losing a big gate. But if Wednesday's game is anything like Game 1 and last night's contest, they could consider it a charitable donation to further the advancement of competitive hockey.

Last night the Knights dismantled the Spitfires 9-1 in Game 3 of their OHL Western Conference semifinal to take a 3-0 lead.

By the grace of whoever decides this sort of thing, it will end on Wednesday.

How bad can it get?

Consider this. The Spitfires are already without their best player, Ryan Garlock.

Yesterday they lost their leading scorers -- David Lomas to a shoulder injury and Jason Dixon, the guy who plays the point on the power play.

Spitfires coach Dave Prpich called him the team's most courageous player.

The Spitfires will ask the league to review the hits that led to the injuries.

Windsor will come into the game having lost 20 in a row to London.

And the Spitfires continue to take stupid penalties at the most inopportune times.

Sure, they came back from 3-0 down to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds to win their first-round series, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone sane or insane willing to bet there'll be a Game 5.

"You are down to your last game of the year," said Prpich. "You hope there's enough guys left who show up on Wednesday night with a little bit of pride left.

"Just play the game hard."

As for the Knights, they'll have several objectives in mind come Wednesday.

One will be to get out of this series without anyone getting hurt.

Knights coach Dale Hunter has kept some of his best players on the bench in the third period.

Part of it is to avoid further embarrassment to the Spitfires, but with all the cheap shots flying about, it's also about avoiding losing a player to an act of retribution.

Objective 2 will be getting something out of the game that will get them game-ready for the next round -- and, it appears, the Kitchener Rangers.

One supposes part of that edge will be not to look ahead or they might wind up getting nothing but a win out of the game instead of some quality preparation time.

"We've been fortunate to get some bounces and run the score up a little," said Knights defenceman Bryan Rodney.

"By no intention did we want to embarrass them. We know they are capable of coming back against a strong team, and that the fourth game is the hardest to win. We'll be motivated to end the series in front of our crowd.

"We won't have any trouble getting ready," he added. "They are a dangerous hockey team. You have to be careful of a cornered dog because it's ready to strike. They don't want to lay down for anybody.

"They don't want to go out four straight. Nobody does."

Pretending this dog is ready to strike, instead of expiring, is one way of staying motivated.

Another is to focus on specific parts of the game and work on it.

"We try and stay sharp in our defensive zone -- stay away from bad habits and bad penalties," said Rodney.

"We're hoping for a long run. We're not worried about Windsor. We're worried about the long run.

"We just hope we can get it over with on Wednesday."

Him and just about everyone else.

Maybe even the Spitfires.


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