OHL sends another strong message

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

KITCHENER -- For the second time in three days, OHL commissioner David Branch warned the London Knights and Kitchener Rangers to clean up their act.

Branch suspended Knights forward Brandon Prust three games and Rangers forward Ryan Donally five games for separate incidents in Game 3 of their Western Conference final Monday in London.

During a conference call yesterday, Branch read the riot act to the teams. He is concerned with the style of play seen in the first three games that produced 361 penalty minutes, three suspensions and fines totalling $8,000.

"We all have a responsibility to maintain a healthy environment for our players," Branch said of his conference call with Knights general manager Mark Hunter, coach Dale Hunter and Rangers coach-GM Peter DeBoer.

"It's fair to say there's disappointment about the style of play. There have been way too many plays that can result in injuries and we have players who have been injured.

"The health and welfare of our players is of our utmost concern. These are two outstanding hockey clubs here. Let's put the best foot forward."

After Game 2, Branch addressed what he called the "sideshow" by the coaches in the postgame news conferences. He ordered Dale Hunter and DeBoer to tone it down.

Prust was suspended for leaving his feet to check Rangers defenceman Matt Lashoff.

Prust got a charging major and game misconduct after his shoulder struck Lashoff on the head. The Kitchener player suffered a concussion, causing him to miss last night's game.

"It was a legal check in every sense of the word, save and except Brandon chose to leave his feet, resulting in the blow to the head with his shoulder," Branch said.

Donally was suspended for shoving Knights defenceman Danny Syvret from behind, head-first into the boards.

Syvret lay on the ice for some time, then went to hospital with a sore neck, but played last night.

Branch said Donally's action wasn't done "with any violence, but is a case where he needlessly gave a shove to Danny Syvret, causing him to fall into the boards."

Referee Brad Beer did not call a penalty, but yesterday, OHL referee-in-chief Ted Baker said the three on-ice officials did not have a good angle on the play. The league has the advantage of the watching the video.

"There's no good comment I can say," Mark Hunter said of Prust's suspension. "I'm really disappointed in the suspension and the whole process. I think there is a big difference between what Brandon did and what Donally did, and three games and five games. But he (Branch) made the decision. I've got to live by the decision."

DeBoer questioned the length of Donally's suspension, given Syvret played last night.

"I know Danny from the world junior team and he's not the type of kid who would embellish anything . . . but the referee didn't feel it was a penalty at the time," DeBoer said. "I'm not saying it didn't warrant something, based on injury, (but) it's probably too much."

DeBoer said of Prust's suspension: "One thing Dave (Branch) has been consistent with is shots to the head and . . . I think he's on the cutting edge of where the game should be going as far as blows to the head."


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