Meckler likes longer playoff format

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

The guy who ended the longest postseason game in the history of NCAA men's sport can't wait for the chance to play a longer playoff series.

London Knights forward David Meckler isn't crazy, just pumped that the OHL's "real" season -- the playoffs -- has arrived.

"In U.S. college hockey, teams only play a best-of-three in the playoffs, but I'm looking forward to this best-of-seven with Owen Sound," the 19-year-old Highland Park, Ill., native said. "We have some young guys who haven't been in this kind of situation before at this level, but they're pretty smart so we're not worried. They know they have to ramp it up a level and that playoff hockey is different than the regular season."

Last season, Meckler's big moment at Yale University arrived in the fifth overtime when he tipped a shot into the Union College net for a 3-2 win.

"In the playoffs, everything is heightened," Meckler said. "Wins are harder to come by. You have to work every shift and put everything you have into it. Owen Sound has a good team and it won't be easy but we're a good team, too."

Doubters figure the Knights can't make a fourth straight run to at least the third round, especially when led by smaller-in-stature stars like OHL scoring champ Pat Kane and Sam Gagner.

"I think jealousy plays a part in all that," veteran defenceman Todd Perry said. "Every year, the London Knights do pretty well. Owen Sound's tough, but we know what we have to do against them. (Attack captain) Bobby Ryan is one of guys we have to shut down. You can't give him time and space or get sucked in by his toe-drag move. If you lean to one side, he'll take the puck to the net every time."

Perry, who played for a strong Barrie Colts team last year, knows how important it is for championship-calibre teams to finish series as quickly as possible and gain rest for the next round. That's a worry for the Knights and Attack, who are scheduled to play Games 5-7 in three consecutive days due to a lack of availability at the John Labatt Centre.

"You get tired quicker in the playoffs because every shift is bigger so you want to rest whenever you get the chance," Perry said. "We had a triple-overtime game last year and those kinds of things can wear on you in a long series, especially if you play the next day. There's injuries. The team that wins usually finds a way to overcome those things."

Owen Sound head coach Mike Stothers, whose team knocked out favoured Kitchener last year before falling to the Knights, isn't listening to those who figure the Attack underachieved this regular season.

"I didn't make any predictions so I'm not disappointed -- we didn't set up the easiest path for ourselves but if you're going to play the best, you might as well draw the best team in the league in the first round and get it over with," he said. "We have a good rivalry and it doesn't take much to get up for London. We had a lot of turnover this year and I was pretty proud of the way our guys battled. In the playoffs, it comes down to everyone pulling together, breaks, a little bit of luck and basically staying clear of injuries."

Against London, the game often starts and ends with trying to shut down the Knights' power play.

"The first thing you do is stay out of the box because if you take penalties, they're going to get their chances and, no matter what you do, they're going to convert on some of them," Stothers said. "They're the best in the league with the man advantage. The most important thing is that when you get a power play, you better score on a few of them, too."

Owen Sound is in an interesting predicament. They need to find a way to slow down London's star forwards and play physical without drawing penalties. The Attack also have to temper skilled players like defenceman Bob Sanguinetti, who is looking for payback on London after Kris Belan ended his season by slamming him into the end boards in the second-round series.

"That was a tough thing not to be able to play at the end and I am looking for revenge," the New York Rangers first-rounder said earlier this month. "We never have to worry about motivation against London."

Knights

1. Get healthy. Many of London's veterans are nursing bumps and bruises. Less of them means a less-experienced lineup.

2. Steve Mason. A down turn in his game means a dead end for London's playoff run.

3. Sturdy defence. Scott Aarssen, Ryan Martinelli and Todd Perry have major work ahead of them.

4. Special teams. The power play will score but will the penalty kill keep up its end?

5. Young guns. If Pat Kane and Sam Gagner score at the same rate they did in the regular season, no one can stop them.

Attack

1. Play physical. The only way to stop star scorers is to hit them -- hard.

2. Stay out of the penalty box. Tough to do when a team is hitting hard, but the Attack can do it if they play smart.

3. Anthony Guadagnolo. If the former Windsor Spitfire goalie can't match Steve Mason save-for-save, there's nothing saving Owen Sound from elimination.

4. Bobby Ryan. The Attack's best player has to lead the way against a team that has overshadowed him his entire OHL career.

5. Protect leads. The Knights have made a habit of demoralizing opponents with dramatic late rallies.


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