Playing like they believe

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:48 AM ET

PLYMOUTH, MICH. -- Good teams don't go quietly.

As poorly as the London Knights have played this series, you know they are a good team.

Not only didn't they go quietly, they sent a message to the Plymouth Whalers: "You'd better bring your A game or we aren't going anywhere in a hurry."

There will be at least one more OHL game at the John Labatt Centre this season.

And if the Knights and Whalers play the way they did last night in a 5-2 London win . . . who knows.

And while the ultimate comeback is still a long way off, every journey has to begin somewhere.

Now there is some doubt. It's no longer a walkover, no longer a gimme. Last night the team that has won countless big games over the last four years showed up.

"We really came into this game with nothing to lose," Knights defenceman Scott Aarssen said. "You saw what the Sault did to us. Our team is definitely able to do that."

The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds came back from 3-0 down to the Knights before losing in a seventh game. That performance was a sort of rallying cry for the Knights.

It also helped that a number of players on this team have been in must-win situations in years gone by.

"That's a big help," Aarssen said. "Guys have been in this situation before and you don't feel the butterflies after a while. We played better defensively and in the neutral zone. We played the trap better. (Goalie Steve Mason) came up with some big saves at the right time and it gave us a chance to capitalize on our chances."

That, in a nutshell, was the way the game went.

The Knights played like a team that believed it could still win this. They played with energy and purpose.

It was the Whalers who were rattled. Up to now, the Whalers played with the confidence of a team that believed it was better. Last night, they played with overconfidence.

This was the sort of thing most people expected before this series began. An energetic Knights team that used its legs and skills to give the bigger Whalers a lot of trouble.

Whether the Whalers allowed the Knights to take over or whether the Knights took the momentum back, doesn't really matter. It happened.

The Knights had to turn it up a notch. That's exactly what they did.

Leading the charge was Josh Beaulieu. Since his return from suspension, Beaulieu has been one of the Knights best players.

"We've got to keep up (the energy level)," he said. "We have to stay strong on the body, finish our check and limit the turnovers. We have some character people in the room who really stepped up."

Pat Kane and Sam Gagner had that little extra jump that has made them so dangerous. The Knights went to the net hard. Whalers' goalie Michal Neuvirth, who has been outstanding all series, was forced to deal with some of the things that his counterpart, Mason, has had to face. Lots of legs, bodies, skates and sticks.

But the real difference last night was the play of the Knights in their own zone. They were far more responsible with the puck than they were in previous games. If there was a hit to take, the defence did just that.

In the end, the Knights simply gave the Whalers far fewer chances to score and control the puck. Toss in solid goaltending and those two things were what made the difference.

Now the Whalers have something to think about.

"They wanted to close out the series," Aarssen said. "Now they have to come into an away rink and they know we'll come hard at them. They are a great team but they'll be thinking we have some life left in us.

Now the Whalers have a trip back to London to face a team that's come back from the dead.

Not a pleasant thought.


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