Montgomery a hit in return

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

OWEN SOUND -- Right now, Jason Guy is the odd man out.

The 20-year-old workhorse goaltender has appeared in 15 of the Knights' 18 games this season and has been the team's go-to guy in net.

But the Whitby native was left behind in London last night to open up a roster spot for returning over-age defenceman Kevin Montgomery, who assisted on Phil Varone's crazy winner 17 seconds into overtime as the Knights downed the Owen Sound Attack before 2,093 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.

Teams in the OHL are allowed to dress only three over-age players per game. The Knights currently have four on their roster and chose to go with all defencemen -- Montgomery, Matt Clarke and captain Scott Aarssen.

"Monty's a great player, he really moves the puck up and he's going to help us a lot back there," said Varone, whose clinching tally bounced off his skate and past Attack goalie Scott Stajcer. "They reviewed it, but I knew it was a good goal. I didn't really do anything. It just hit me in front and went in.

"Lucky bounce."

With Guy at home and former Knight Steve Mason making his NHL debut for Columbus against Sam Gagner's Edmonton Oilers, sophomore goalie Michael Zador stopped 29 shots for his second victory. Big Stephen Heming, who has been playing well in St. Marys this year, served as backup.

"Jason understands," London goalie coach Dave Rook said. "They (the Knights) want to see what their defence looks like and there's only room for three 20-year-olds. You have Montgomery coming back and he has to play. (Clarke) has been doing well and you have the captain."

"Someone has to sit. I talked to him and he's taking it as well as you can," Rook said.

London general manager Mark Hunter, back behind the bench after a scouting mission in Chicago, has a potentially season-changing decision to make: keep all three 20-year-old defencemen and trade for a younger starting goalie or hold onto Guy and try to move one of his veteran blue-liners.

He doesn't like older players sitting around and could pull the trigger on a deal as early as this week.

"Jason's done everything we asked of him," Rook said. "His numbers have been generally good (10-4-0-1 with a .917 save percentage), although the Windsor game (a 7-4 defeat) kind of threw those a little bit out of whack. He's won games and kept us in it.

"He's finally realizing the promise we saw in him when we drafted him (four years ago). He knew what was at stake here and he came in and did the job and it was all him. He worked hard and got himself ready in the off-season for this opportunity."

Montgomery knows the drill. He shared a personal trainer in Rochester, N.Y., with NHLers Ryan Callahan and Brian Gionta, working out every day and pumping enough iron to bulk up by 15 pounds.

He earned an American Hockey League contract and started the season with the Lake Erie (Cleveland) Monsters. He even saw some exhibition action with the parent Colorado Avalanche.

"That was a little bit unexpected, but an awesome experience," he said. "It is a little bit of a different feel in the room when Joe Sakic is sitting beside you. I was paired up with Adam Foote and he's a great player."

Montgomery saw what it takes to get to the next level and won't take any guff this year. Two shifts in, he fought Owen Sound's Lane MacDermid, then retreated to the dressing room for repairs before returning in the second period.

"You never know what's going to happen in pro hockey and I'm happy to be here in London and get the chance to play a lot of minutes," Montgomery said. "I'm just going to try to keep it simple. I talked to (Avs vice-president of hockey operations) Craig Billington and the tendency is to come back and try to do too much. I'm coming here to work on my defensive zone coverage and improve my strength.

"Those are my weaknesses."

One of London's soft spots is developing the willingness to go to the net. The rewards are there -- Varone was in the right spot on his winner and Justin Taylor steamed in to score twice.


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