SAGINAW, MICH. -- It wasn't the kind of start anyone expected of the No. 3-ranked major junior team in Canada.
The London Knights opened the Ontario Hockey League season in dismal fashion last night, dropping a 5-2 decision to the Saginaw Spirit.
They didn't skate well, didn't work hard enough and were woeful in their own end.
In short, they were lousy.
"We were very disappointed with the effort," Knights assistant coach Pat Curcio said. "Rankings don't mean nothing. If you don't come to work and you don't come to play . . . rankings you know what you can do with them. Hopefully the guys learned a lesson and they'll come to work tomorrow and prepare for Friday."
The Knights didn't look very good against a team that's supposed to struggle this season.
They came out of the first period trailing 3-1 after having given up 10 scoring chances. That's as many as Knights head coach Dale Hunter likes to give up in a game.
The night started off badly. The Knights arrived only an hour before the game after being tied up at the border while their identifications were checked. The entire team was made to leave the bus.
Whether that was a contributing factor or not is debatable, but the Knights didn't have a lot of jump.
The Spirit went to the net hard and the Knights couldn't do anything about it.
"We didn't like the effort in the first period," Curcio said. "It's always hard when a 2 1/2 - hour bus ride takes you five hours. But when you get to this level, you have to be able to carry yourself and be ready to play no matter what time the bus shows up."
Saginaw's first three goals all came with the Knights standing around.
Jordan Szwarz threw a pass across the crease and Tyler Murovich, wearing a Knights blue-liner, directed it into the net. Less than two minutes later, Saginaw's Joe Pleckaitis was allowed to stand by the side of the net. When the puck came to him, he blindly spun and fired the puck into the corner. Knights goalie Jason Guy had two players in front of him and didn't see it.
The Knights managed to cut the deficit to 2-1 on the power play a minute later.
Rookie Jared Knight combined with Chris MacKinnon and Nazem Kadri but another defensive error restored the two-goal lead.
Guy was behind the net attempting to clear the puck but was checked by Jakub Svoboda. The puck went directly to Jason McDonough, who had the empty net.
"They are a hard-working team and move their feet," Knights defenceman Scott Aarssen said. "But we were playing lazy at times as a team and that includes picking up your man. When that doesn't happen, guys get open and usually go to the net for a scoring chance."
Aarssen has been around this team for a while and is a leader. He isn't about to let laziness become a habit.
"Everybody in that room is disappointed for sure," he said. "We have a lot of expectations going into this season and that's not how we wanted to start it.
"To lose is one thing but to get outplayed, not work your hardest and not give it your all that's a different story. We have to address that right away and fix that."
The Spirit worked hard considering they don't have a ton of talent. Most of their talent though is on the blueline with T. J. Brodie and Adam Comrie. Comrie is away at NHL camp.
The Spirit first and second round picks in the OHL draft this year did not report to the team.
The nights were without John Carlson, Akim Aliu, Justin Taylor and Tony DeHart away at NHL camps and Phil McRae who is out with mono.
Things got silly as the game drew to a close. There were five fights in the final four minutes.
Spirit 5, Knights 2
Saginaw goals: Tyler Murovich 2, Joe Pleckaitis, Jason McDonough, Kyle Tront
London goals: Jared Knight, Daniel Erlich
Next: London plays its home opener against the Erie Otters tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.