Coleman wants Cup final start

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Gerald Coleman isn't making it easy for London head coach Dale Hunter to pick the Knights goalie for Sunday's Memorial Cup final.

The 20-year-old puckstopper turned aside 26 of 28 shots in last night's 5-2 win over Ottawa to send the unbeaten Knights to the biggest game of the major junior hockey season.

It was Coleman's first tournament start after backing up Adam Dennis the first two games and he felt afterward he deserves another shot.

"Definitely, I feel I've earned it. You always want to be the No. 1 guy, no matter who you are," Coleman said. "I was 32-2-2 in the regular season. I was 7-1 in the playoffs, including playing in the final, and now this one. It was frustrating not to get to play earlier. I felt I had proven myself. But it's the coach's decision.

"I found out (Wednesday night) I'd get the start (against Ottawa) and that first shot felt unbelievable."

Dennis and Coleman expect to hear who will get the big assignment after tomorrow night's semifinal.

"It's been that way all year, it's come down to the last minute and there's no reason it will change now," Coleman said.

Coleman was in net when the Knights won the OHL championship over the 67's in Game 5 May 14 at the John Labatt Centre. It was the last time he played until last night, a fact the Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick struggled with this week.

Showing a competitive spirit, he had been upset at not being chosen to play against Rimouski or Kelowna.

"Ever since I came here, it's been a battle," he said. "My first year, I lost out to Chris Houle as starter. Then, Ryan MacDonald came in and had an awesome season last year. We thought we were doing well together this year, but they wanted to bring in some experience and went and got Adam from Guelph."

If Hunter goes with Dennis Sunday, he will have a goalie with five games of Cup experience who hasn't played since Monday night.

If he goes with Coleman, he will have a goalie with just one Cup game who has only faced one team -- Ottawa -- in a month.

The 67's had little doubt they'd see Coleman last night.

"We kind of had an idea it would be Coleman in net. We saw him a lot the last few games of the OHL final and I guess they think he plays better against us," Ottawa forward Chris Hulit said.

The London players say they aren't really concerned which one of their goalies gets the call for the final.


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