Faceoff for starting goalie

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Choosing his starting goalie is proving a tougher decision than what jacket to wear behind the bench tomorrow night.

Head coach Dale Hunter will be clad in his usual lucky tan sports jacket when the London Knights open the Memorial Cup against the Rimouski Oceanic.

But will it be Gerald Coleman or Adam Dennis in net?

The suspense was fuelled yesterday when Hunter said he hadn't made up his mind.

"I've got to think about it longer because I'm a slow thinker," he said during a media scrum.

Hunter said he'll announce his starter after this morning's practice at the Western Fair Sports Centre.

It looked like Dennis was the man when he got the nod for Game 3 of the OHL Western Conference final against Kitchener, and was still in when it came time for Game 3 of the championship series against Ottawa.

Dennis started six consecutive games after he and Coleman had alternated through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

But then Dennis was pulled during Game 3 in Ottawa and Coleman was in when the Knights captured their first OHL championship last Saturday night.

"I've got some tape of Rimouski," Hunter said. "I just got it this morning and I want to see who matches up. It's not easy when you have two No. 1 goalies."

He said Dennis has recovered fully from a slight groin pull, suffered in the Ottawa series.

It was assumed that when the Knights got him from the Guelph Storm on Jan. 10, they wanted his Memorial Cup experience from last year.

The Storm did lose all three games in Kelowna, however.

"I guess with the experience, it could go that way. But at the end of the day, Gerald finished up the series against Ottawa and he played well," said goalie coach Dave Rook.

Coleman also registered an OHL-record 1.70 goals-against average this season.

"It's a hard decision and this decision gets harder all the time. . . . It's a tough one for Dale," Rook said, breaking into a smile as he passed the buck to Hunter.

"They're both very competitive kids, and both are going for (pro) contracts. And both want to showcase themselves. What better stage than here?"

Rook said the starter will be told at some point during practice. There is a method to the madness of delaying.

"All year we've gone with the day before the game, and we're going to stick with that now. You like them to be hungry. They'll also have one night to get ready, and that way they don't have too much time to think about it and get themselves psyched out."

Psyched out? As in thinking too much about Oceanic 17-year-old superstar Sidney Crosby and the 66 goals he scored in 62 regular-season games to lead the Canadian Hockey League?

Adding to a goalie's nightmare, Crosby scored or assisted on more than half the Oceanic's 333 goals, the most by a team in the Canadian Hockey League this season.

"There's a lot more pressure because a lot more people are going to be watching because of him playing," said Coleman, 20, a seventh-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Dennis, 20, who is undrafted, said a goalie has to look at Crosby as just another player.

"It doesn't matter who's on the other team. Obviously he's a great player and I'd like to see what he's all about. But you can't look really too much at the other side. You've just go to try and play your game."

Coleman said both of them are used to being told the day before a game.

Will there be disappointment?

"It's a long tournament. Who knows what might happen?" Coleman said in the event he's not the guy.

"It was great to win the championship and knowing I helped the team win there. And hopefully, I can help win the Memorial Cup."

Dennis said: "If you don't want to start, I think you're in the wrong business." He felt his previous Memorial Cup appearance "might help a little.

"I might be a little more relaxed. It's a pretty hyped-up tournament and it's pretty nerve-wracking. But if I do get my chance, I'm going to play relaxed."

In the next breath, he said: "But you have to play with an edge. You can't take any nights off here. That was proved last year with us (the Storm). We got some bad bounces in Game 1 and lost 1-0 (to Kelowna) and it was an uphill battle the rest of the tournament."


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