Knights hold the hammer

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

Go figure.

The London Knights are steamrolling through the Memorial Cup thanks in large part to a power play that has produced only one goal in 13 attempts.

The Knights beat the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 last night and got one goal in six advantages. Even that's better than the doughnut for seven they managed in beating the Rimouski Oceanic 4-3 in overtime in the tournament opener.

Do the math. The Knights are up just a goal on the power play over two games. So why is a statistically barren power play still producing such rich fruit?

The power play, with Corey Perry and Dylan Hunter rotating between the top and bottom of the goalie's left, Danny Syvret and Bryan Rodney back and David Bolland or Danny Fritsche near the crease is grinding down opponents.

The Knights are dandies with the man advantage. Sometimes when they pass the puck around, you'd swear someone was playing Sweet Georgia Brown.

"They move the puck so well," Kelowna goalie Kris Westblom said. "It takes a lot of energy away from your team to kill penalties against them."

The effectiveness of the power play ripples through the game, even if, statistically, the Knights scored only one goal on the man advantage, a nifty marker from Perry that gave London a 3-1 edge in the second period.

"It makes a difference," Syvret said. "The puck movement can put a player in a position where he may get lazy chasing the man out (toward the point).

The Knights exhaust opponents with the man advantage. Their five players all pass the puck superbly. They pursue the puck equally effectively. Three or four station to station touch passes invariably produce a frantic response not just from opposing penalty killers, but from opposing goalies.

"Even at 19 and 20 years old, if you put those five guys as a unit in the NHL on the power play, they would have a lot of success" one veteran NHL talent evaluator said.

The Knights roared through the regular season and playoffs producing a goal on every four power plays. During the season, the Knights featured four of the top 10 power-play scorers in the OHL.

Think about that for a moment. One team, with nearly half the league leaders with the man advantage: Rob Schremp, 23 power-play goals, Perry, 18, defenceman Syvret and Hunter, with 15 apiece.

The Knights shook off a disallowed goal and blew by the Rockets, who at 0-2 have been rendered long shots to see the final.

The Rockets represented the only remaining bit of intrigue for the Knights, who vastly outplayed the Oceanic in the tournament opener and have the number of the Ottawa 67's, a team they handled in five games to win the Ontario Hockey League title.

The Rockets arrived with 13 returning players from last year's title winner. They play an asphyxiating trap with a balanced, seamless team made up mostly of checkers. They have a fine, albeit green goalie in 18-year-old Westblom.

But after surrendering the first eight shots and the game's opening goal, the Knights easily outgunned the Rockets on two goals from Perry and Drew Larman.

Imagine what happens when the power play starts to click.


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