Hard-working Knights on a roll

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

It wasn’t spectacular but it was efficient, it was hard working, it was gritty.

It was the London Knights fourth win in succession.

It was all good if you are the Knights.

The Knights defeated the Kitchener Rangers 4-2 Saturday using a style they should template as the season progresses.

“We’re happy with our team tonight,” said Knights’ assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu. “I thought we were focused and we played real hard.”

The beauty of the game Saturday was the lack of beauty. There were no passengers on the Knights’ roster as they worked at every aspect of their game.

Defensively they didn’t allow the Rangers many great chances. The Knights battled in the corners. Their penalty killing was solid. They got a goal from Michael D’Orazio, a defenceman. That’s not something that happens every day. In fact, it’s the first goal scored by a blueliner this year.

Michael Houser played well, yet again, in net.

Young Seth Griffith is finding his legs on a consistent basis. He had a goal and an assist and was terrific against the Rangers.

As was Stephen Sanza. The former junior B scoring star got one on Saturday, his second in two games, and while he’s always been able to turn heads with his speed, he is now turning heads with his defensive plays.

He was a hurting lad after the game Saturday after he blocked a shot with each leg that left him limping.

All in all it was a vein of energy and determination that ran through the Knights’ lineup.

“We grinded it out,” Beaulieu said. “We’re not good enough to score on the rush all the time. We’ve got to get pucks in the corner, cycle the puck, get it to the net and get some dirty goals. Seth got a dirty goal on the power play.”

Beaulieu liked the way several things worked out.

“Defensively, we were sharp,” he said. “We got tight defensive gaps. We worked on that all week and (against Erie Friday) it kind of got away from us. We saw 12 minutes of video on it (Saturday)and we made our message to the players real clear.”

The rare goal from a defenceman pleased him.

“I thought our (defence) shot the puck better,” Beaulieau said. “We got pucks through. We put tires on the ice at practice had the players try to dodge the tires with their shots, their heads up and I thought it worked.”

It was enough to get Rangers’ starter Brandon Maxwell yanked. He made a dozen outstanding saves but gave up three goals in two periods.

Houser, on the other hand, showed the same kind of confidence he’s been showing since the beginning of the season.

“”We played good (against Erie Friday) but (Saturday) was a huge step up,” Sanza said. “We played our roles and our systems.

“Sometimes it takes time to learn the system, new guys have to learn the system. We’re starting to do that.”

That includes understanding where everyone stands on the food chain.

“At this level, you take what they give you,” Sanza said. “Whatever role that is, you have to play as hard as you can. Right now my line is more of a shutdown line, Me, (Chris) DeSousa and (Tyler) Brown but we’re getting some chances and can put up points.”

“The Rangers and Knights have traditionally done battle for the Midwest Division title. The Rangers were gearing for a real run at more than just the division title this year but were badly damaged by the NHL.

Jeff Skinner, an 18-year-old who scored 70 goals in the regular season and playoffs last year, appears to have made the Carolina Hurricanes. Jeremy Morin, a 19-year-old 47-goal scorer last year, is playing with the Chicago Blackhawks affiliate in the American Hockey League.

The Knights managed to limit the number of scoring chances the Rangers had.

“We have to work hard,” Beaulieu said. “We aren’t the kind of team that can take the night off and play one good period and win. We have to play 60 minutes to get the results we got.”


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