Dennis won't gripe about close-scoring games

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

The London Knights aren't scoring as much as they used to, but that doesn't bother goaltender Adam Dennis one bit.

The 20-year-old puckstopper says he relishes the chance to play night-after-night nail-biters, an opportunity he sees more frequently these days because his team hasn't scored more than five times in a game since a 7-1 win over Erie Nov. 11.

"It's a change from last year when we played a lot of games that weren't that close," the Toronto native said. "You want to have that playoff-type atmosphere and play well in the games that are tight and low-scoring. This stretch hasn't bothered me at all and we're not worried about it."

If you're looking for a mid-season nominee for the OHL's most valuable player, you could do worse than point at Dennis. London started out 0-4 before he returned from training camp with the Buffalo Sabres' American Hockey League affiliate, but has reeled off a 22-4 record, including two shootout losses, with him back between the pipes.

The Knights have climbed to No. 2 on the Canadian Hockey League top 10 list -- ahead of rival Peterborough -- and have expressed the desire to seriously challenge for a repeat OHL title.

Dennis, in net for the last two league champions and last year's Memorial Cup champs, has never been named the league's top goalie, but he's a clear front-runner now.

"It's a secondary goal. I'm more concerned with wins and stopping as many pucks as I can," Dennis said.

"I don't think being traded (at mid-season from Guelph to London for Ryan MacDonald last year) or splitting time (in the crease with Gerald Coleman) helped us (in the awards department), but I know Michael Ouzas and he was a deserving winner," Dennis said.

Ouzas was traded recently from Mississauga -- which plays London tomorrow night at the John Labatt Centre -- to the Knights' division rival, Owen Sound.

Dennis knows all about wearing a new sweater and also has shown no fear in trying out new equipment during the season. After breaking in new pads earlier this year, he donned a brand-new helmet for Sunday night's win over Guelph.

Both Dennis and backup Steve Mason are sporting newly painted masks created by local artist Derrick Gilders.

"I got him to do my first mask last year," Dennis said. "He did a great job. This time, we started with an idea and he went with it and it looks great. Fortunately, I didn't get hit in the head against Guelph, so it still looks new. Every time you try a new piece of equipment, it makes you focus a little bit more."

There's no doubt Dennis looks like a million bucks on the ice. Now, it has to be determined if he can play the game well enough to earn that kind of money in the pro game.

On Wednesday, Dennis missed practice to drive to Buffalo to meet with Sabres goalie coach Jim Corsi, watch some videotape and take in the Sabres' game against the Dallas Stars at HSBC Arena.

Dennis will have to beat the odds to get from a seat in the stands to a spot on an NHL roster. For some strange reason, very few goaltenders who lead their teams to Memorial Cup victories go on to successful pro careers.

It's just a quirk of the sport. But with his stellar win-loss record and importance to this year's Knights, Dennis is proving he's not to be taken lightly.

After trading defencemen Steve Ferry and Matt McCready to Sarnia for Matt Pelech Wednesday, the Knights are short on the blue-line while they wait for Pelech (shoulder) and 20-year-old Frank Rediker (knee) to become available.

In the meantime, the team has called up 16-year-old defenceman Corbin Crawford, who has played with the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League and was a Knights fourth-round pick this past summer, and 17-year-old Lucan native Mike Noyes, a six-foot-three, 185-pound member of the Petrolia Jets.

Both are expected to be in the lineup tonight.

KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: vs. Sudbury, 7:30, John Labatt Centre

Tomorrow: vs. Mississauga, 7 p.m., JLC

Be a Fan . . . Bring a Can food drive: Bring a non-perishable food item to the two games and they will be collected at the gates.

RED LIGHT BLUES?

2005 London Knights offensive production

- First 10 games: 55 goals, 5.5 goals a game average

- Next 10 games: 67 goals, 6.7 goals a game average

- Last 10 games: 35 goals, 3.5 goals a game average


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