Meaningless win a confidence-builder

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

It was a meaningless game that took on great significance.

When the Windsor Spitfires and London Knights squared off for the final time in the regular season yesterday, there was nothing at stake in the standings.

But it seems that whenever the Spitfires and Knights meet these days, there is always something in play.

Yesterday's game was hijacked by Knights star John Tavares. Since he was going to break Peter Lee's record for most goals scored in the Ontario Hockey League at some point before the season ended, he opted to do it in sensational fashion. He hit for the hat trick.

The 4-3 win was far more significant for the Knights in other areas.

They needed a major confidence boost. They needed a win against the Spitfires after being kicked around in the first five regular season games against the Spits. Windsor is still clearly the favourite, but the win yesterday gave the Spitfires something to chew on.

The game was just an appetizer for what could be a real banquet if the teams manage to work their way through the playoffs and meet each other in the Western Conference final.

Lost in all the noise and hoopla about Tavares and the rivalry between the Spitfires and Knights, was another vital life sign for the Knights.

Trevor Cann has carried a great deal of the burden for the Knights when they suffered through a difficult time in January and early February. The red-haired goalie couldn't seem to find the form that had made him such a winner in Peterborough.

Yesterday's win was the Knights seventh straight and that run has been due in part to Cann's reclaiming his game.

There was no greater evidence of the improved Cann than yesterday against the Spitfires. He faced 37 shots, but the number wasn't the story. The story was the calibre of the saves he made.

Three minutes into the game Kevin Montgomery made a bad pass that bounced right to Taylor Hall, who went in alone on Cann and was stoned.

A series of Spitfire penalties then left Cann a lonely man for a 10-minute stretch. But when the Knights took penalties, Cann made great saves on Ellis, Greg Nemisz and Dale Mitchell. He hadn't lost his concentration.

In the second period, Nemisz was alone in front with half the net to shoot at. Nemisz was already counting it when Cann's glove snatched it. It was larcenous.

The new Cann made the big saves, the easy saves and was focused the entire game.

"That felt great, especially going into the playoffs," he said. "We had some recent issues especially after the trade deadline. We've got a good streak going. We played strong and hard and battled the whole game.

"For me, it would have been nice if I didn't give up the two goals but it happened."

The Knights are playing with more confidence, as is their goalie. He has recovered from a concussion that slowed him and his reaction time down.

Cann credits his goaltending coaches, including Dave Rook, for helping him through.

"There were some bad bounces here and there and obviously some goals that shouldn't have gone in," Cann said. "But you look at guys in the NHL and you just have to keep working and eventually it will come together."

No Cann, no chance of winning for the Knights.

"When you go through a bad time you try and not get frustrated because you know it happens to everyone," he said. "I look at other players and I see great players going through it. At the beginning of the year, I knew my ability. I knew I could play well and it was just a matter of when I would come around."

He couldn't have picked a better time.


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