Knights' unsung hero gets turn to shine

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

He isn't flashy and rarely grabs the headlines.

All he does is play the game right, with a lot of heart, desire and talent.

The London Knights' Justin Taylor has been overshadowed by guys like Nazem Kadri, John Carlson and John Tavares. But he doesn't have to take a back seat to anyone. He's putting together a terrific season.

Taylor scored three goals and added an assist yesterday to lead the Knights to a 7-2 win over the Kingston Frontenacs in an Ontario Hockey League game at the John Labatt Centre.

The hat trick gave him 34 goals on the year. What those statistics don't show you is the grit with which he plays the game. He'll do whatever he is asked, whether it's scoring, checking or heavy slugging.

If there was a constant through the Knights' recent troubles, it was Taylor's strong play.

"We've been playing a lot better lately," Taylor said. "Everyone's been playing well. Everyone wants to play the way Mark and Dale (Hunter, general manager and coach) want us to play. That's how they won championships before and that's how we're going to win them now. There's no time better to peak than in the home stretch when you are going into the playoffs."

It was the Knights' fourth win in succession. They may not have all been pretty, but they've been effective.

While Tavares continues to score, adding two goals and two assists, and Carlson chipped in with a goal and three assists, it's players like Taylor, Leigh Salters, Matt Clarke, Dominic DeSando, players who have some sandpaper to their game, that have gotten this team back on track.

Taylor spent a lot of time on a line with Kadri and Tavares yesterday. They know where to find Taylor, usually in front of the net taking a pounding or in the corner digging the puck out.

"You got to have that edge, let players know that you're going to push them to that limit," Taylor said. "You have to keep playing so that they know that Taylor is out there, or DeSando or whoever. They have to be aware you are there."

Yesterday, the Frontenacs hung tough with the Knights, but the team with the fewest points in the OHL ran into penalty problems and just wore out.

Kingston coach Doug Gilmour, who took over the Frontenacs in mid-November, was steamed at the officials. The Knights scored three power-play goals in eight chances.

With the game out of reach, he let the officials know what he thought and earned a pair of bench minor penalties.

"Those were mine, totally mine," he said. "It was embarrassing. We've got three lines and six defence. It was a show out there. That's all it was. Just let the kids play. That's what it's all about."

Gilmour was already heading out of the building 10 minutes after the game was over.

"We've got a good future here," he said. "That's where I'm going now, to see the future. I'm going out to scout. We've got some good young talent here, a lot of guys returning. It's going to get better."

Depth and experience are keys. The Knights have it, the Frontenacs don't.

The Knights have some injury problems so just about everyone in the lineup got a regular shift. They lost Garrett Hunter to a leg injury early in the game and Salters left with an injury in the second period. Still missing are forwards Jason Wilson and Phil McRae with injuries and Zac Rinaldo due to an eight-game suspension.

Defenceman Matt Clarke has played the last few games at forward. He had three assists yesterday and his ability to skate has been a benefit to the team.

He was a forward converted to defence two years ago. His ability to play more than one position makes him a real asset to this team.

"It's a different style of play up there," Clarke said. "I've learned to like it on defence. I may be going back there when all the injuries are done, but I don't know. I got some good wheels and I can come off the wing, so I feel I can help."

Clarke says the Knights are finding ways to win.

"People are knowing their roles and playing their roles to the best of their abilities," he said. "That's what you need on this team. You have to have everyone firing on all cylinders. You can't have everyone being the snipers and the danglers."

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Knights 7, Frontenacs 2

London goals: Justin Taylor 3, John Tavares 2, John Carlson, Jared Knight

Kingston goals: Nathan Moon, George Lovatsis

Next: Thursday, the Kitchener Rangers come to the John Labatt Centre for a 7 p.m. game.


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