Dale Hunter should stuff his London Knights’ stockings with a burned DVD copy of their final pre-holiday effort.
That 4-2 win over the Owen Sound Attack before an announced 8,975 Friday night at the John Labatt Centre? Boys, that’s the way you’re supposed to play.
And where has that been tucked away all season?
The dominant first period, chock full of big hits, determination and an early 2-0 lead, was sublime.
“That felt great — you go in that room right now and there’s a smile on everyone’s face, including Mark (Hunter) and Dale,” London captain Michael D’Orazio said of the Knights’ first back-to-back wins in a month-and-a-half. “I think the boys are realizing what winning means here. When you win, the Hunters give you days off and you have a chance to have some fun and when we lose, we have two-a-days every day.”
That’s why guys like Rob Schremp and Corey Perry always seemed like they were having a ball here. They won, they had more fun.
Vladislav Namestnikov, for one, needed to inject some joy into his play. He scored for the first time in 14 games and snuffed out a confusing funk: “I was being too hard on myself,”
He’s off to Detroit before flying into Buffalo to join the Russian’s pre-world junior camp to try to crack the roster. It’s a nice note on which to depart.
Right from the start, the Knights went hard on the Attack.
They forechecked and it resulted in Stephen Sanza’s opportunistic second-period gift goal that chased Owen Sound goalie Jordan Binnington.
He was replaced by former Knights first rounder Michael Zador.
“A great goal,” Namestnikov said with a grin.
And the Knights’ aggressive style? Is this the future of this club moving forward?
“Why wouldn’t you do it (forecheck),” Owen Sound coach Mark Reeds said. “They have really quick guys and why wouldn’t you when we didn’t want to be physical. We didn’t want to compete. We didn’t want to win battles and it cost us there in the first. They got on us.”
Big Jarred Tinordi, with dad Mark watching on the Internet at home in Maryland, dished out some crushing blows — hits that are starting to become his signature move. “It’s more a timing thing than anything else,” Tinordi said. “It’s something that you have to know you’re going to do before you do it. If you wait, the guy’s going to go around you. You just have to do it.”
The Attack had three star players — always-dangerous Joey Hishon, Garrett Wilson and Jesse Blacker — cut at the same time from the Canadian world junior team this week.
Hishon, who hit two goal posts and created a ton of chances Friday, showed up at national juniors camp and found out he was trying out at left wing.
“I never played there before, it was new for me,” the Stratford native said.
The unfortunate axe means they want to make the rest of the OHL pay for the oversight. Tinordi, a Montreal first rounder, feels the same way about his U.S.A. snub.
“Those guys didn’t make it, but I know how they feel,” Tinordi said. “I didn’t even get invited to camp. I wanted to be there (he was the U.S. under-18 team’s captain last season) and I want to prove that they made a mistake in not inviting me.”
A large man on a mission would be a nice thing for the Knights in the second half.
London played the most home games in the league in the first three months and won 11 of 21 — not exactly overwhelming. They’ll face a lot of adversity in opposing rinks down the stretch in a playoff push.