Storm reign over Knights

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:00 AM ET

The London Knights returned to action last night for a tight game against the Guelph Storm.

Tight because of the teams' competitive history. Tight because of fill-ins for players gone to the world junior championship.

But mainly tight because of the rust.

Guelph shook off enough of it to emerge with a 3-1 victory, leaving the Storm with a 3-1 record against London this season.

The Knights won their last game via a shootout in London on Dec. 11.

One guy who had every reason to be off his game was anything but. Rangy Matt Pelech, playing his first game for the Knights after he was acquired in a trade with the Sarnia Sting earlier this month, was a presence on the London blueline.

Moreover, the six-foot-four, 222-pound defenceman knows when to jump into the attack and went coast-to-coast in one instance as well as joining the forwards on a few other thrusts.

Ten days off can wreak havoc on finely tuned athletes and it can be more pronounced among teenagers. Especially ones who made too many trips to the buffet.

The Knights had good motivation to nix the egg nog and hold off on the extra turkey. The fatter they turned up, the thinner their wallets would be.

They were weighed before the break and told they'd be fined $10 a pound over the allowed weight. In deference to the giving spirit of the season, head coach Dale Hunter gave them a couple of pounds' grace.

"Nobody even needed it," trainer Don Brankley said. "Everyone was either at, or below, the weight they scaled when they left."

You could make a case for 16-year-old Brampton junior B callup Reggie Traccitto being a bit awed in his first major junior appearance, but Pelech had more reason than anyone to be off his game. He hadn't played in five weeks because of a separated shoulder.

"I felt a little clumsy at first," said Pelech, who was coached by Knights' assistant coach Jeff Perry at Sarnia. "I had mixed feelings about the trade -- you leave a lot of friends. But I was struggling and coming to a team like the Knights is terrific."

Hunter said his rangy defender fits into what he sees as a return to earlier hockey.

"It's reverting back," Hunter said. "Look at the shots on goal -- 22-14 (for Guelph)."

Andy Hyvarinen finally broke a 1-1 deadlock with under four minutes remaining when he scored uncovered from the slot. Tyler Doig got his second of the game into an empty net with 30 seconds left.

The teams traded goals in the first period on plays that were the direct result of a lack of recent action. Knights goalie Adam Dennis looked like a drowning man as Doig, standing all alone toying with the puck, waited out the former Guelph netminder and roofed the puck as Dennis, sprawled to cover the bottom of the net, flailed helplessly with his glove.

The Knights came right back with a similar goal when Matt Davis, stationed in the slot, had plenty of time to pot one behind former Knights goalie Ryan MacDonald.

Last time these teams met, the Knights won 3-2 in a shootout 2 1/2 weeks ago in London. The teams meet twice more this season, Jan. 22 here and Jan. 29 in London. With all the rust gone, presumably.


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