Knights have stayed disciplined

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:28 AM ET

The London Knights learned a lesson back in January that will help them as the OHL playoffs progress.

The Knights were playing the Peterborough Petes in Peterborough. The game was a physical affair almost from the beginning. The Knights took numerous undisciplined penalties.

In the third period, the Knights and Petes engaged in a line brawl. Before the night was done, coach Dale Hunter had been ejected, the Petes had scored five power-play goals and the Knights had a 6-2 loss.

Hunter refers to that game when the issue of discipline comes up.

It's come up often in the Knights' Western Conference semifinal against the Windsor Spitfires. The Knights can sweep the best-of-seven series tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre.

Unlike Windsor, the Knights learned their lesson that night. While there are a number of reasons why the Spitfires' season is going to come to an end tomorrow, one of the overriding factors is their inability to stay out of the penalty box.

There are some theories in the junior hockey world about how best to defeat this record-setting Knights team. One of them is to play as physically as possible in an effort to intimidate them. The offshoot of that strategy is to hope that the Knights lose their composure and focus, preferring to retaliate rather than turn away and go on a power play.

In previous years the Knights were known to do just that. If previous Knights teams had been involved in the type of series that's taken place so far with the Spitfires, it would have made for some long nights at the rink.

That type of discipline will come in handy as the Knights play bigger, tougher and more talented teams.

While it is difficult to measure exactly what kind of value a blowout series like this one has for a hockey team, Hunter points to the Knights' self-control as something he is happy with.

"We've been pretty good discipline-wise," said Hunter. "You can get back into that stuff and get suspensions and everything else but we've been reasonably good that way.

"We learned our lesson in Peterborough. We lost our composure and they scored a whole bunch of power-play goals on us. We found out that we can't play that way either. Hey, we lost control, myself included."

The Knights are far superior to Windsor and could have withstood a minor loss of discipline. But the Western Conference championship will likely pit the Knights against the Kitchener Rangers and the Knights will need to keep their composure against a much stronger hockey club.

The Rangers are big, especially defensively, and they like to hit. While the Rangers love to pay particular attention to Corey Perry, the Knights have a special spot in their hearts for Boris Valabik and David Clarkson.

The one thing the Rangers would love to see is the Knights focus on Valabik and Clarkson to the detriment of all else.

That's why if the Knights get nothing else out of this series with the Spitfires, they'll understand the value of discipline.

Brandon Prust and Matt McCready were involved in incidents with the Spitfires' Steve Downie and Scott Todd. Prust, McCready and Todd would normally miss two games but in the playoffs those type of suspensions can be bought back for $100.

But some suspensions can't be bought back. The last thing a team hunting for an OHL title needs is the loss of one of its better players to suspension. But discipline is also about staying out of the penalty box, something the Knights have been able to do.

Prust was also involved in an incident with Spitfire Jason Dixon. Prust earned an interference penalty. Dixon reportedly suffered a broken wrist. The Spitfires sent a tape of the incident to the league for review.

"It's standard procedure for the league to review any incident which results in an injury, whether a penalty was called or not," said Ted Baker, director of hockey operations and referee-in-chief for the OHL. "We haven't received the tape yet. I have no idea what happened. When we do get the tape, we will review it."

Should a suspension occur that cannot be bought back, it will provide an exclamation point about the importance of staying disciplined.


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