London needs huge turnaround

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

That was a frightening night for the London Knights.

It was scary to see how good the Plymouth Whalers can be.

The Whalers did just about whatever they wanted to the Knights last night in the opening game of the OHL Western Conference final.

Don't be fooled by the 5-1 score. It was incredibly flattering to the Knights. They were nowhere in this game.

The hope is that last night was an aberration, that it was one of those horrible events that teams want to forget, that the Knights will be able to offer a little more resistance than in Game 1.

But it's going to take a massive turnaround.

Then there's these words from Whalers head coach Mike Vellucci.

"I think we have a lot more to give," he said. "I know that every coach says that but I really believe we have a lot more to give. We were really sluggish in the first period and then we did a workman-like job the rest of the way."

Yikes.

Check the laundry list of what the Whalers did.

They dominated along the boards, in the corners, in front of the net, at centre ice. That doesn't leave many other places to play.

They snuffed out the Knights power play.

And at the end, when the Knights attempted to send a message or intimidate the Whalers, the players kept their cool.

The story before this series was whether the Knights could withstand the pressure the Whalers brought on every shift. In Game 1, they couldn't.

If the Knights don't panic, are patient and don't give the puck away, they'll have chance to survive the series.

Last night they gave the puck away like turkeys are given away at a Christmas raffle.

After the Knights failed to score with a two-man advantage in the second period, the Whalers took over.

If you really want to get a glimpse of what the rest of the night was like, the second period will do that just fine.

The Knights went into the period leading 1-0. The Whalers found their legs and fired 25 shots at Mason and scored a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead.

When a Knight or Whaler went into the corner, it was the Whaler who came out with the puck. Sometimes when one Whaler went in against two Knights, he still came out with the puck.

Knights goaltender Steve Mason was outstanding but even with that performance, the Knights didn't come close to stealing a win.

What's also troublesome is the Whalers played like they thought they were going to win.

The Knights played like they were waiting to lose.

"They are a good team and we have to respect them," said Knights Sam Gagner. "But we finished in first place for a reason. They have two arms and two legs just like we do. We don't have to show them too much respect. We didn't play with any confidence. We have to get that confidence back."

There's been much ink spilled before this series about the superiority of the Whalers because of their depth and size. They are the most complete and deepest team in the OHL.

You aren't going to beat them by trying to grind it out. The Knights have to skate and jump into the play quickly when the opening presents itself.

Because the Knights have been so good all year, there's a reticence in believing that the Whalers could actually be favoured in this series.

There's little question after last night. Yes it's only one game and momentum has a way of changing direction in a hurry in junior hockey. The Knights have made it a habit of coming up with wins when few people expect it.


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