Dennis cracks his goose-egg drought

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

BELLEVILLE -- Since blanking Sidney Crosby and the Rimouski Oceanic in the Memorial Cup final last year, Adam Dennis was starting to feel like he would never celebrate another shutout.

Several times this season, the London Knights goalie had carried goose eggs late into the third period, only to watch them crack on a bad break, a tough call or a lucky shot.

But in his 52nd start, the 21-year-old finally got it right by turning away 28 shots for London's first shutout of the season in a 2-0 win over the Belleville Bulls before 2,487 last night at Yardmen Arena.

"The way shutouts have gone this year, I was thinking they (Belleville) would probably score with 30 seconds left off somebody's skate or something," said Dennis, who had six regular-season shutouts with Guelph and London last season. "After it was over, I told the guys to look into the stands and see the monkey that had been on my back running out of the arena."

London took two penalties in the final two minutes and Belleville hit the crossbar on the power play, but Dennis wouldn't be denied.

"It's great for Adam," Knights head coach Dale Hunter said. "The guys really wanted him to have one because they appreciate all the times that he saves their butts out there."

The win moved Western Conference-leading London into a first-place tie with Peterborough in the OHL's overall standings. The Knights and Petes, each with 43 wins and 89 points in 59 games, meet tonight.

"We beat them on our ice (4-1 on Feb. 17), but it won't mean a thing if they come back and beat us on their ice," said Knights forward Adam Perry, a Peterborough native. "Now that we're tied, we want to win this game and hopefully not surrender first place again the rest of the year. We're off to a good start on this road trip with the shutout and we want to keep it going."

Last year, London was atop the OHL standings all season. This year, it took a lot longer to get there, but a seven-game win streak and eight straight road victories has done the trick.

The Dennis shutout was made more surprising because London played most of the game without veteran defenceman Frank Rediker, who suffered an elbow injury early in the second period after being hit from the blind side by Belleville's Cory Tanaka.

Rediker left the rink in a sling and was sent back to London to be examined by a team specialist.

If that didn't complicate matters enough, Dale Hunter also will have to pick a starting goalie to face Peterborough tonight. Dennis is riding high on his first shutout win, but rookie goalie Steve Mason stopped 52 shots to beat the Petes two weeks ago while his teammate was suspended.

"No one has said anything about it to us yet," Dennis said.

London and Peterborough have nine games left in their regular seasons, but the Petes have the easier schedule with all of their remaining contests against Eastern Conference competition.

"Peterborough is a good team, especially on their ice," Dale Hunter said. "They have a home record like us and don't lose there very much."

Following the eastern Ontario swing, the Knights play three games in three nights on successive weekends and close out their regular season March 19 at home against the tough Kitchener Rangers.

Last night, Belleville started backup goalie Sebastian Dahm, a 19-year-old from Denmark, because all-star and Calgary Flames draft pick Kevin Lalande suffered a "lower-body" injury in a victory Friday at Guelph. Dahm helped the Bulls hold leading scorers Rob Schremp and David Bolland pointless, but he didn't receive any offensive support.

Schremp has 48 goals and needs to score twice tonight in Peterborough to reach the magical 50 goals in 50 games milestone.

GAME GLANCE

Knights 2, Bulls 0

London goals: Sergei Kostitsyn, Dylan Hunter

Shutout: Adam Dennis

Next: London heads to Peterborough to face the Petes in a battle of OHL conference leaders tonight at 7 p.m. at the Peterborough Memorial Centre. The Knights play in Ottawa tomorrow night and in Kingston Sunday afternoon.


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