Knights deliver triumph on road

RYAN PYETTE, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

GUELPH -- Daniel Erlich spent his holiday running on a beach in Mexico.

Michael Hutchinson played shinny with his buddies back home in Barrie.

Big Leigh Salters rested his sore hand for the OHL stretch drive while Phil Varone wiped the slate clean on a four-goal first half.

Get them all back together on the ice and the outcome proved nice -- a 4-2 London Knights victory over the Guelph Storm before 4,811 at the Sleeman Centre.

A tanned-up Erlich put the Knights up for good on a sneaky wraparound 37 seconds into the second period.

Clearly, he hadn't been lounging around sipping virgin mojitos down south. Instead, he was bolting down a strip of sand with his dad Arie, getting ready for Round 2 of the OHL season.

"You don't get to see your family all year so you try to take advantage of the time off," he said, "and then, it was time to go again. This was our first game back and I thought we worked super hard and played a great road game."

Those had been few and far between in London's visiting black jerseys this season.

But they found a way to win and propel themselves back into the Western Conference's second seed with Kitchener's defeat. They even scored a couple of key power-play goals away from the friendly John Labatt Centre.

The suffering Storm, of course, discovered a new way to lose. Death by a thousand goal posts.

Well, five of them, anyway.

"Three of those shots, I didn't even see," Hutchinson said with a grin. "I got a little lucky there."

But he was certainly solid again. He didn't go near the crease or his pads back home.

"I played out, so I got to be more of a goal-scorer," he said. "I hit one post."

So he can't properly empathize with the Guelph shooters.

But Varone can.

"Them hitting posts -- a lot of that is Hutch, too," the Knights forward said. "He plays his angles and that happens."

Varone angled his way in to score a brilliant individual power-play effort in the second period that would've made Nazem Kadri smile. It came as a big relief to a frustrated scorer.

""I don't care what anybody says, I know I can score goals," the San Jose Sharks pick said. "I just put the first half behind me and decided the second half, I'd start from scratch and it was a brand-new season."

Salters got it all started, but his hand still hurts.

On Dec. 18, he punched Soo Greyhounds defenceman Dylan King in the helmet and hurt a knuckle on his right hand.

But the X-rays were negative. He's going to tough it out.

"They didn't find anything so it might just be a deep bruise," he said, "but I still have to see a hand specialist until we find out what it is. I just have to be careful.

"The gloves will have to stay on for a little while."

He's the only charter member of the Wrecking Crew still in the lineup.

Dominic DeSando, out for a month after a hernia operation, is day-to-day. And Zac Rinaldo found out at 10:30 a.m. yesterday he received a two-game suspension for his head check on Soo defender Michael Quesnele in that pre-break tilt.

"We're a little short right now," London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said, "but the guys we have in there did a nice job and Michael was good for us at the right times."

The Knights got a big scare in the final minute of the second period. Guelph defender Adam Comrie ran speedy Stephen Sanza hard into the end boards and the 19-year-old Londoner had to be helped off the ice.

It's a suspected concussion. He sat out the rest of the game.

"Dale (Hunter) and I didn't see the hit, we'll have to watch the tape but he (Sanza) was out (cold)," Beaulieu said.

It's not good news heading into a couple of games against Sarnia wrapped around New Year's.

The Knights are already playing without rookie defenceman Scott Harrington. He's trying to help Ontario win a third straight gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Timmins.

Nazem Kadri (Canada) and Phil McRae (United States), of course, are set to collide tomorrow at the world juniors in Saskatoon.

What will the Knights look like when they get back? General manager Mark Hunter was scouting in Toronto last night.

"It's my last year and I want to take a crack at it," over-ager Salters said. "I know guys don't want to be moved, but if that's what (Hunter) has to do to make us better, than you hope we do something to help us out."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 4, Storm 2

London goals: Leigh Salters, Daniel Erlich, Colin Martin, Phil Varone

Guelph goals: Taylor Beck, Vadim Guskov

Next: London's annual New Year's home-and-home with the Sarnia Sting has been tweaked this year. Tomorrow's game at the John Labatt Centre starts at 4 p.m. Then the teams are back at it Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Sarnia.


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