Knights overwhelmed

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:40 AM ET

Soo Greyhounds captain Cody Thornton was so impressed with the London Knights in the second round of the playoffs, he picked Plymouth to convincingly win the OHL's Western Conference final.

The Knights did nothing in the opener to prove him wrong. London and its potent offence scored first, but powerful Plymouth surrendered nothing more in rolling to a dominant 5-1 victory over the Knights before 9,090 spectators last night at the John Labatt Centre.

If it weren't for the acrobatics of London goalie Steve Mason, many more of Plymouth's 53 shots -- 45 in the final 40 minutes -- would have gone in the home side's net.

"We're not a happy group of guys in here," London forward Andrew Wilkins said in a quiet and near-vacant Knights dressing room. "It (the effort and score) is not acceptable to this organization. We're going to have to come back and show them the real London Knights (tonight) in Game 2."

London won the league's regular-season title by finishing one point ahead of Plymouth to earn home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Kiss that edge goodbye after just one game.

"Just forget about it and move on to the next one," London head coach Dale Hunter said of his team's approach for tonight's game in Plymouth.

The Knights know this -- knocking off the Whalers, who won three of four against them in convincing fashion during the regular schedule, is going to be about as difficult as pulling a whale to shore by the tail. Playing their first game in six days after beating a good Kitchener team in just five games, Plymouth took 30 minutes to shake off the rust and then went to work.

Though achieving little success in one-on-one battles for the puck, London turned to physical stuff way too late. Jordan Foreman was booted in the third period for spearing and a 10-minute misconduct, while Jordan Shine got the gate on a slashing major before fighting big Plymouth defenceman Steve Whitely.

Whalers' six-foot-five forward Tom Sestito was after Adam Perry all night for what he thought were diving attempts by the Knights forward, but he was a much happier camper on leaving London with a win.

"We're not worried about what they're doing -- we're just doing our own thing and we're not going to get lured into anything," Sestito said. "They dive, they're trying to draw penalties, but we're not going to worry about it. They're a great team, great on the power play and we have to stay out of the penalty box against them. We killed penalties pretty well (the Knights were one-for-eight with the man advantage) and it's pretty much the way we did it all year. Pressure the puck carrier."

Plymouth defencemen aren't falling for the deft stickhandling of Pat Kane, Sam Gagner and Sergei Kostitsyn. When the Whalers forwards hit, they make it count and inflict maximum punishment.

"They play like the biggest team in the league," London captain Robbie Drummond said. "They finish their checks, even after you don't have the puck anymore. Not many teams do that."

Through nine playoff games, Plymouth had no top playoff scorers on the top 20 list. But the Whalers have two good goalies, including Czech Michael Neuvirth, who played well despite not facing many high-quality chances.

If the Knights have any chance of returning to the OHL final for a third straight year, they have to find a way to pepper Neuvirth and shake his confidence.

"We weren't desperate enough," said London forward David Meckler, who scored his league-leading 14th goal of the playoffs. "We have to play the way we did in Game 7 (against the Soo)."

GAME GLANCE

Whalers 5, Knights 1

Series: Plymouth leads best-of-seven Western Conference final 1-0

Plymouth goals: Evan Brophey (2), James Neal, Jared Boll, Vern Cooper

London goal: David Meckler

Next: Game 2 is tonight in Plymouth, Mich., at 7:05.


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