Win in Guelph a confidence booster

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

GUELPH -- As long as they took care of home cooking, the London Knights knew they wouldn't have to win a game in Guelph to advance to the OHL final.

So to beat the Storm 2-1 on Ryan Martinelli's dramatic game-winning goal with two seconds left in the third period was an unexpected bonus that has the Knights on the cusp of another trip to the OHL final.

Gaining the top seed in the Western Conference during the regular season afforded London the luxury of a few timid outings on the road this post-season. But the players admit a victory in Guelph means much for their own confidence and breaks up the drought they've had against the Storm here over the past few seasons.

"It's as much for us as anything else," London forward Josh Beaulieu said. "It gives us a good feeling to come in here and win. We don't want to feel like there's a place where we can't get a win and this game erases that feeling."

London had one of the best road records in the OHL this year and won twice in enemy rinks against both the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and the Owen Sound Attack in the first two playoff rounds.

"We want to prove -- to ourselves mostly -- we can play in this building," London forward Adam Perry said. "I don't think I've ever scored in Guelph (he scored the Knights' opening goal last night) and I don't care if I ever get a point here as long as we win."

For the returnees of London's Memorial Cup team, it hasn't been easy to grasp the concept that embarrassing nights like Friday's 7-1 drubbing in Game 2 can happen and won't lessen the lustre of a repeat berth in the OHL final.

After steamrolling everyone last year in a once-in-a-lifetime season, the Knights have to accept a team can be outplayed -- often look bad in a series -- and still find a way to win a championship.

They're doing that this series against Guelph.

"It's not like last year when we could get away from the game plan for a while and we still had the talent to come back," London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "This year, we can't afford to get away from the game plan. In Game 2, we were overskating on the forecheck and the backcheck. We were trying to do too much. Think more, skate less. That's the motto for the game."

In a way, London is fighting an emotional battle with what it believes it should be as a team. They sometimes forget the Rimouski Oceanic, who the Knights beat in the Memorial Cup final last year, got to that point as a team with one offensively-dominant line that ate up a bulk of the available ice time.

But when things aren't going right, London has to find a way to make simple adjustments and play smarter -- not harder. The Knights did that last night and wore down a Guelph team that had played inspired hockey much of the first two periods. But by the third, the advantage had swung back to the Knights.

"I've never seen anyone score six goals on a shift before," Beaulieu said. "You have to get one goal first and then work from there. In that loss, too many of our veteran guys took too much of the load on their backs and thought they had to do everything to get us back in it. It doesn't work that way."

London's defence is still having a tough time with Guelph's forecheck and the return of 21-year-old Frank Rediker for his first game in nearly two months helped.

"Frank's a big part of this -- as an over-age player, he brings some calm to the panic," Beaulieu said.


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