Storm blow Knights away

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, FREE PRESS SPORTS COLUMNIST

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

The London Knights delivered a lump of goal to their fans in their last home game before Christmas.

In a battle of short-handed teams, the Guelph Storm defeated the Knights 6-3 last night in an Ontario Hockey League game at the John Labatt Centre.

It was the Knights' fourth loss in five games, and the Christmas break can't come quick enough for this team. Unfortunately, they have one more game tonight against the Sarnia Sting before they can take a break and lick their wounds.

With the changes, deletions and additions, the rosters looked more like exhibition lineups than middle-of-the-season squads.

The Knights were missing a number of players because of injuries, including Josh Beaulieu and Jordan Foreman. Also gone where Sam Gagner and Sergei Kostitsyn with world junior commitments. Pat Kane was serving the first game of a two-game suspension for a gross misconduct he received against the Windsor Spitfires on Friday. He left today for the world junior tournament with the United States junior team.

The Storm had almost as many players missing. They were minus several defenceman, including captain Ryan Parent, who was with Canada at the world junior tournament, and former Knight Ryan Pottruff, who was suspended.

The Storm used Tyler Doig, usually a centre, on the blueline.

But the Storm had a lot more spark and jump than the home team and despite having a patchwork defence, made far fewer mistakes behind the blueline than the Knights did.

"We struggling big time," said London's Dave Meckler. "We're missing some great players but that's no excuse. We need to step it up.

"We can say we're tired, but that's not the reason. We're missing some spark. We have no life."

Knights coach Dale Hunter tried just about everything he could to get his team going. Always willing to try something different, Hunter switched his struggling powerplay. He used forward Meckler and Rob Drummond on the point, while moving defencemen Todd Perry and Kevin Montgomery up front.

"Perry's a big guy up front and Montgomery is good on the half boards," said Hunter. "We need some skill up front. At this point, you try everything you can. The guys up there before weren't doing it."

Hunter wasn't sure about a lack of spark, but he was sure about a lack of skill.

"We're missing skill," he said. "Skill brings spark."

The teams combined for five goals in the first period, but some of those goals were less than stellar. After Guelph netminder Thomas McCollum gave up his third goal, Storm coach Dave Barr gave him the hook in the first period and replaced him with Cody St. Jacques.

The game marked the return of Knights goaltender Steve Mason from the world junior selection camp. Mason said he was suffering no ill-effects from the concussion he received in a game just before he left for that camp.

With so many players out of the lineup, the Knights coaching staff had hoped some of their younger players who see less icetime will be able to pick up the slack.

They got that kind of help in the first period when both Corbin Crawford and Phil McRae scored their first goals.

McRae, the Knights' first round pick in last spring's OHL draft, was expected to contribute a little more on the score sheet. It came on a power play with McRae getting the shot off 10 feet to the right of the Storm net. He fired a hard wrist shot that McCollum got a piece of but couldn't stop.

"It's just great to get the monkey off my back," said McRae, sporting a fat lip from the game Friday night. "It would have been a lot better if I had scored in a win, but I guess I'll take it."

GAME GLANCE

Storm 6, Knights 3

Guelph goals: Mike McLean 3, Brandon Buck, Jamie Arniel, Joe Underwood

London goals: Corbin Crawford, Rob Drummond, Phil McRae

Next: The Knights go to Sarnia to take on the Sting. It's a 7 p.m. start on Rogers Sportsnet


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