Knights welcome calm after Storm

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 3:36 PM ET

Rob Schremp traded his hockey stick for golf clubs and toured FireRock in 79 strokes.

Josh Beaulieu's parents visited from Comber.

The rest of the London Knights relaxed with visiting families and girlfriends and found other ways to celebrate a luxury some hadn't known since Aug. 28 -- a weekend off.

If the play in the Ontario Hockey League helps prepare players for the professional game, so does the schedule.

It is a grind and the time off after eliminating Guelph last Friday was a welcome respite before what figures to be a slam-bang series against Peterborough starting Friday night at the John Labatt Centre.

"They're a big strong team that goes at the net really hard; it's going to be tough on our D (defence)," coach Jacques Beaulieu said of his group. "Our D is going to have to be real sharp for us to win this series."

Beaulieu touched on a recurring hockey truth. Power plays and penalty killing determine most outcomes.

"We've changed a couple of things in the neutral zone, but I still think special teams will be the difference. Home advantage is huge. You want to get momentum early."

London nailed down the extra home game if the series goes seven with wins in home and away games against Eastern Conference champion Peterborough this season.

Last time these teams met, it wasn't long before they were at each other's throats. That was in Peterborough two months ago.

The outbreak of hostilities came early. The game was just seconds old when players from both teams were trying to rip each other's adenoids out.

If familiarity breeds contempt, it's hard to imagine the explosions if these teams met across an entire season rather than just two games.

Coach Beaulieu tends to think more decorum will prevail in the playoffs.

"That game was for king of the castle, with both of us going for first overall (in the OHL)," he noted.

So, no battles like the line brawls in their game in Peterborough?

Player Beaulieu, unrelated to his coach, isn't so sure.

"It could come to that," he allowed.

The London tough guy took on big Justin Soryal on the opening faceoff of the March 3 game, a brushfire that led to outbreaks between Kris Beland and Peterborough's Justin Caruana, Knight Jamie VanderVeeken and Burke MacDonald, then London's Ryan Martinelli and Greg Stewart.

Coaches Dick Todd of Peterborough and Dale Hunter of London were suspended two games and fined $2,500 apiece.

Needless to say, both teams will get a pregame reminder from the image-conscious OHL that a lot of people will be watching at the JLC and on television. It's useful to remember those advisories often are forgotten the moment somebody deems an opponent to have taken liberties with his teammate.

If it comes to that, Josh Beaulieu says, so be it. It's his job, after all, to deal sternly with miscreants from the other side.

So far, Beaulieu and his checking linemates, Rob Drummond and Trevor Kell, have performed admirably against the other team's top shooters in the previous three playoff series. Beaulieu has his body into it, managed to stay relatively clear of the penalty box and made some timely steals.

"I know I have to play a physical role because they've got a big strong squad that likes to use the body," he said.

"I've got to make room for our better players. I hope to be playing against one of their top two lines."

The week without a game has been a benefit to both teams as the bruises of previous series heal. London reports no injuries of note.


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