Knights prove they can also win ugly

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

It was Kelowna Rockets hockey at its best.

Only it was the London Knights who played it.

The Knights gave the Rockets a dose of their own medicine last night, bumping, grinding and digging their way to a 4-2 win.

The win guarantees the Knights at least a semifinal berth in the tournament.

Corey Perry was the game's first star. But this win belongs to guys like Drew Larman, who had two goals; Brandon Prust, Trevor Kell, Marc Methot and Daniel Girardi -- guys who controlled the boards and won battle after battle.

They took away the Rockets' strength.

It doesn't come as a surprise to those who have seen this team all year. There is the talk of the great offence, the flash and skill, the power play and the slick work with the puck.

That's what catches the eye.

But what wins in tournaments like this, especially against Western Hockey League teams is often as subtle as a punch in the eye.

The Knights ability to provide that didn't surprise the Rockets.

"We knew they were a strong team," said Shea Weber. "You don't get here unless you do a lot of things well. They do a lot of things well. (Winning battles along the boards) just happens to be one of them."

The difference between this game and the Rimouski-London game was like going to a concert expecting Luciano Pavarotti and getting a dose of Rosanne Barr.

No apologies need to be made by either team. When it comes to a Memorial Cup tournament you do what you need to win. In this case it was obvious this wasn't going to be the same style of game.

Those familiar with the Kelowna Rockets were thrilled after the first period. The score was tied and they had limited the Knights to nine shots on goal and few good chances.

If you want beauty you hire an artist. If you want a common person, hard work, you hire a painter. This was no masterpiece. An expression used by the Kelowna radio broadcast crew was that they "had to make blah." The meaning is obvious. The Rockets need to play a tight game, work their opponents hard and not play free-wheeling hockey.

Exciting isn't necessarily a good thing.

"We knew we had to win the battles to win the game," said Kell. "I think we did. They are strong but we played some teams in our league that are just as strong (Kitchener Rangers), so we were ready."

There was no doubt that the atmosphere was not the same as the Cup opener, nor did it measure up to Sunday's double-overtime thriller between the Ottawa 67's and Rockets. The spirit may have been willing but the body was weak as fans tried to get jacked up but there was little jack left. Much the same as the Rockets who came out strong in the first period but couldn't sustain the effort.

Even the Knights seemed somewhat flat as the game began, giving up a goal in the first minute. But the teams who aren't familiar with the Knights need to take note, they are good at coming from behind. They did it when they were down 3-1 to Rimouski and they did it to Kelowna.

It was obvious that the double-overtime game 24 hours earlier had its effect.

"We just kept our composure after giving up that goal," said Kell. "We just bore down a little and got the puck deep. We knew that we might get to them in the second and third period so we wanted to make them work."

This team can come back and they can do it without help. In what has been a recurring theme in these playoffs, the referee had to go to the video goal judge when goal judge David Longfield flashed the goallight on a puck that hit both goalposts and failed to cross the line. It's the second or third time in these playoffs he has done it, usually when the disputed play involves a London goal. In fact, in the Kitchener series he failed to put on the light when Rangers Craig Voakes scored. It has become embarrassing.

The disallowed goal, which never was, could have deflated the Knights. In fact it seemed to motivate them.

Saturday it was the offensively gifted Oceanic. Last night the hard-working Rockets. Two tests passed with flying colours.

One more left before the final exam.


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