Renewed Spitfires bounce Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

WINDSOR -- The haze is lifting from the Windsor Spitfires.

The Spitfires added the London Knights to what's becoming an impressive list of victims at the Windsor Arena.

In recent years, the Barn hasn't been as terrifying as it used to be, but the rejuvenated Spitfires are making it ugly country to visit.

Windsor beat the Knights 5-4 last night for their 10th win in succession at home. Their victims include the Kitchener Rangers, Owen Sound Attack and Plymouth Whalers.

Their strong showing has put them smack dab into the race for the OHL West Division title.

This Spitfire team has survived a year from hell. An off-ice hazing incident that put them in the national spotlight, the firing of a coach and a semi-housecleaning that saw them part with longtime players like Steve Downie, Brett Liscomb, David Lomas, Kyle Knechtel, along with first-round pick Akim Aliu, have worked out for them.

"They have a good team," Knights coach Dale Hunter said. "They are a different team. The trades they made have worked out for them. Everyone forgets that these are young kids and what happened before was very disruptive for them. What they needed to do is move on. That's what life is all about, moving on. They've done it."

Their biggest acquisition was goalie Anthony Guadagnolo. When they got him from the Ottawa 67's, it turned the Spitfires season around. Going into last night's game, he was riding a two shutout home streak, having given up only one goal in three home games.

Even though he didn't have to face the usual Knights offensive onslaught last night, he was there when his team really needed it. Leading 5-2 in the third period with the game seemingly in hand, the Spitfires took a couple of penalties.

The Knights took advantage scoring two goals, one with goalie Steve Mason on the bench for an extra forward. That cut the lead to 5-4 with more than two minutes left.

The Knights buzzed the Spitfires end, forcing Guadagnolo into several tough stops.

Knights goaltender Adam Dennis did not have one of his better games. After starting 40 in succession, he was pulled at the start of the third period after giving up five goals. Mason played the last minute of the game in Guelph on Sunday during a Knights' loss but didn't have a shot on goal.

There was discussion about starting Mason before the game. He may get a chance to play next week.

"I didn't play very well," Dennis said. "He's a good goalie and deserved a chance to play. I just feel like I let the team down."

Dennis did notice a difference in these Spitfires.

"It's about goaltending," he said. "When you get good goaltending, it makes a big difference. I know (Guadagnolo) from Toronto and he has a lot of confidence."

With the Knights trailing 5-2 after two periods, Hunter opted to empty his bench, giving guys who don't get a lot of ice time a chance to play. He only used his better players on the power play.

When it got close, though, they were back on the ice.

"I just wanted to give them a rest in the third," he said. "Same with Adam. I wanted to rest him for (Guelph on Sunday). At 5-2, you think the game is over."

There also must have been some displeasure with how some of his team played. They weren't sharp on the power play, going two-for-10, and they also gave up a short-handed goal.

Rob Schremp came into the game leading the league in scoring. He's looking to become one of the quickest to get to 100 points in a season.

He had a goal and two assists last night, giving him 99 points in 36 games. Ottawa 67's Bobby Smith had 100 points in 33 games in 1977-78, while Wayne Gretzky of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds hit 100 in 34 games in 1977-78.

GAME GLANCE

Spitfires 5, Knights 4

Windsor goals: Bryan Bickell 2, Mickey Renaud, Jonathan Sciacca, Bradley Snetsinger.

London goals: David Bolland, Dylan Hunter, Rob Schremp, Sergei Kostitsyn.

Next: The Sarnia Sting play the Knights tonight at the John Labatt Centre at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, the Guelph Storm are at the JLC at 3 p.m.


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