Freefall baffles Knights

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

OWEN SOUND -- Phil Varone was the London Knights' hero in his first two visits to the Bayshore this season.

He scored both road winners late. But that was in better times.

Now, like a lot of his teammates, he's scratching his head.

His Knights are reeling.

They have lost four straight. Their 5-2 defeat to the Owen Sound Attack before 3,2351 yesterday at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre capped off a lost weekend against Windsor, Barrie and the Attack.

"I'm at a loss for words right now," Varone said. "I don't have any answers. It's very frustrating. We're all giving 110 per cent and working hard but for some reason, it feels like we've been playing not to lose instead of to win."

Trevor Cann, the goalie London need to be their main man heading into the playoffs, has lost his last four starts.

John Tavares, the guy who drives the Knights offence, is still on the shelf with a shoulder injury. London GM Mark Hunter doesn't know if he'll be ready to go on Friday at home against the Erie Otters.

"It's day-by-day," Hunter said.

The Knights' goal scoring has been night-and-day lately. After a 9-0 win in Kitchener on Jan. 27, London hasn't produced more than three goals in its following six outings.

This is supposed to be the second-best offence in the OHL. They're getting the chances -- they followed a 46-shot salvo against Barrie's Peter Di Salvo by peppering Owen Sound's Scott Stajcer with 37 more -- but managed just two goals in each game.

Three goals in six minutes early in the second proved enough for Owen Sound.

"The offence will come but it all starts with defence," said London forward Daniel Erlich, who staked the Knights to an early lead. "We've been focused on our defensive play. Once you play good defence as a team, it gets you started."

The Knights' frustration level reached its boiling point in Owen Sound. Their two best blue-liners Michael Del Zotto and John Carlson both served 10-minute misconducts -- Del Zotto after being whistled for diving and Carlson for his jousting with Marcus Carroll at the second period buzzer.

The Knights were already short because Steve Tarasuk sat out a second straight game after blocking a shot against Windsor.

Zac Rinaldo, usually a physical force, became a target for the officials. The Attack scored two power-play goals and captain David Kolomatis, an Attack defenceman, had four points.

Owen Sound star Joey Hishon had a goal and assisted on former Knight Andrew Wilkins' empty-netter. The Attack lost a shootout in Windsor on Thursday so they can compete with the best.

"We're not as talented as every team," Kolomatis said, "but if we work as hard as we can, we always feel like we have a chance to win."

With the Knights down two late in the third, London showed some solidarity. Rugged Jason Wilson went after Owen Sound's Michael Lomas, who got away with a hit from behind on Carlson.

Wilson sent the message he thought it was a dirty play. No Knight had made Windsor's Taylor Hall accountable for his big check on Tavares Friday night.

"We've been doing that (sticking up for each other) all year -- we're all buddies," Varone said. "We've talked about it (this slump) for a week-and-a-half. We have pretty much the same guys we did before. We made some changes but it was for the better. We have a better team now then we did. If we pull together, in the grand scheme of things, these games aren't going to matter a whole lot. But we have a week here to work hard and get ready and try to figure this out."

The easy answer is London has missed Tavares. He has been good for a goal or two in most games he has played here and the Knights aren't losing by much.

"With JT out, we need other guys to step up," Erlich said. "Whenever they put me out there, I'm going to try to provide a spark."

GAME GLANCE

Attack 5, Knights 2

Owen Sound goals: David Kolomatis (2), Joey Hishon, Marcus Carroll, Andrew Wilkins

London goals: Daniel Erlich, Vladimir Roth

Next: The Knights play the Erie Otters on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.


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