VanderVeeken aims for playoff spurt

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

Every hockey team that achieves success in playoff time needs a player whose postseason performance trumps his regular season statistics.

Jamie VanderVeeken hopes he's that guy for the London Knights this year.

The Wallaceburg native, who has played on five teams in his journeyman OHL career, hit two Sault Ste. Marie players with body checks, then hustled to the net to score the opening goal 54 seconds into Game 1 of the Knights-Greyhounds Western Conference quarter-final series.

Of all the firepower London possesses, few expected the team's first tally to come from a six-goal scorer who spent most of the season in a checking role.

"I want to build off it and hopefully carry it through the rest of the series -- and playoffs," VanderVeeken said.

The big 20-year-old, who was claimed on waivers by London from Ottawa last summer, scored a ton of goals in the pre-season, but didn't see a lot of ice time once the regular season shifted into high gear. He had a brief offensive outburst before Christmas, but suffered a broken wrist and missed a month of action.

"It was a setback, but it's all healed up now and it hasn't bothered me," he said. "When you hurt your arm, you still have your legs, so you can stay in shape and keep the skating level up."

VanderVeeken's goal was a sharp dagger for the Sault because he played 11 games with the Greyhounds last year in between stops in Toronto and Ottawa. Playing with stellar Soo goalie Kyle Gajewski didn't give him a chance to learn all the puckstopper's secrets, but the stint didn't hurt, either.

"Eleven games isn't enough to learn all of a goalie's holes, but I'm familiar with him," VanderVeeken said.

The first goal in each game looms large in this series that features teams at opposite ends of the offensive spectrum. The Knights know if they strike first, the 'Hounds must open up and play a game that's not comfortable.

Last night, London's David Bolland scored a power-play marker in the final minute of the first period to put his team out front.

Ingersoll native Cody Thornton, who led the Greyhounds with 26 goals this season, believes his team can roll with London if it stays out of the penalty box.

"I think we proved that five-on-five, we can play with those guys," he said. "We had two great chances early (in Game 1) and if we scored on those, it's a totally different game. We were in it until the third period when it was about 4-1 and we got way too undisciplined."


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