Still perfect

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

Now the tough part begins.

The London Knights defeated the Windsor Spitfires 2-1 last night at the John Labatt Centre to sweep their best-of-seven Ontario Hockey League Western Conference semifinal series 4-0.

No more easy touch. No more going through the motions. The Kitchener Rangers are up next and they may be playing the best hockey in the OHL.

The Knights dominated the Spitfires -- as they did Guelph in the opening round -- even though their two wins at home left a lot to be desired.

Most people believed it was mission impossible for the Spitfires last night. Besides having lost 20 games in a row to the Knights, the Spits were missing three of their top players -- Ryan Garlock, Jason Dixon and David Lomas. They were so short-handed they dressed nine defencemen.

All coach Dave Prpich was hoping for was that his team would show up and compete. That's what the Spits did.

All the Knights wanted to do was get this series over and move on.

That's what they did but they wish they could have done it in a little neater fashion.

They never expected they would have to rely on netminder Gerald Coleman against the Spitfires, yet that's what happened.

Coleman had to come up big in the first and third periods or everyone would be coming back for a Game 5. He was the game's first star.

His performance opens up the debate as to who will carry the load in goal for the Knights. Before the Spitfires came back to beat the Soo Greyhounds in a quarter-final series, a Kitchener-London series looked certain. Coleman was going to start.

Coleman knew he was auditioning.

"That's the way it always is. Who knows what they are going to do?" Coleman said. "They might go with one, they might go with two. If they choose Adam (Dennis), they know that at least I'm ready to go. If they go with me, Adam looks like he's ready. I knew coming in here that this might be the last chance I had going to the next round to show I could play."

Windsor's Paul Giallonardo was the only player to beat Coleman. He cut the London lead to 2-1 in the second period. Corey Perry and Dylan Hunter scored for the Knights.

"The longer you go, the more chance of injuries," said Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu. "With Kitchener winning, we don't want them to have any more time off than we have."

The Rangers swept the Owen Sound Attack in four games in their semifinal series.

Knights captain Danny Syvret knows the team needs to ratchet it up against the Rangers, especially with the way Kitchener captain Mike Richards is playing.

"They are a hardworking team," said Syvret. "They have great leadership in Mike Richards and they are well- coached" (by Peter DeBoer).

Syvret played with Richards on Team Canada.

"He leads by example on the ice and he's very vocal in the dressing room." said Syvret.

Prpich was assistant coach on the 1988 Spitfires team that went undefeated in the OHL playoffs (12 games).

"I thought that was the most talented club I'd ever seen," he said. "But this London club is more skilled. They can do things with the puck that I've never seen a junior club do before."

As good as this team is, Syvret knows it will have to play better.

"We came in (last night) like the series was over and we didn't have to work for it," said Syvret. "We didn't battle as hard as we have to in the next round."

The Knights also lost their composure and discipline on several occasions. They were almost involved in a line brawl in the second period with Rob Schremp, Hunter, Syvret, Perry and Brandon Prust on the ice.

Not smart. Perry and the Spitfires' Steve Downie got down to it. Downie earned 29 minutes in penalties, including a game misconduct, but Perry sat out for 15 minutes.

"The way the game was going, we got frustrated because we weren't playing well and took some penalties," said Syvret. "Against Kitchener, we aren't going to be able to do that."

KNIGHTS 2, SPITFIRES 1

London goals: Corey Perry, Dylan Hunter

Windsor goal: Paul Giallonardo

Next: The Knights face the Kitchener Rangers in a best-of-seven Western Conference final. No dates have been announced.


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