Knights miss the mark

London Knights Colin Martin left, controls the puck as Saverio Posa of the Windsor Spitfires gives...

London Knights Colin Martin left, controls the puck as Saverio Posa of the Windsor Spitfires gives him a shove during the first period at the John Labatt Centre. (SUE REEVE/QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:16 AM ET

This wasn’t a bad test for the London Knights.

The Windsor Spitfires, hastily rebuilt to take another crack at a third straight OHL title, under the bright lights of Rogers Sportsnet’s TV cameras.

Back home after five straight games on the road and a character — and health-testing — trip east last weekend.

The Knights needed this in their pre-playoff preparations.

And after it, they were found a bit wanting — they couldn’t bury a boatload of chances and a deflated power play didn’t help much — in a 5-2 loss to the Spits before 8,975 Friday night at the John Labatt Centre.

They have to know they can stand up to a team icing a player of Ryan Ellis’s quality. They have to know they can handle a power foward like Zack Kassian down low.

“Guys like that make everyone else better,” said Spitfires forward Zack MacQueen.

“I don’t know if Ryan is using (the silver medal for Canada at the world junior championship in Buffalo) as motivation but he’s been phenomenal for us the last month.”

The Spits needed something positive from this one, too.

They haven’t been themselves the last 10 games. John Cullen got the start in net. Jack Campbell’s been yanked a few times, too, often lately.

GM Warren Rychel made some trades, announced his intention to go for it again, and the team hasn’t performed consistently enough after the deals.

“I don’t know what the reason is,” MacQueen said. “It was exciting to know we were going to take a run. We have a lot of guys who know what it takes to win, but we also know you can’t just wait till the playoffs and turn it on. We have to use these last (17) or so games to make sure we go into the playoffs playing the way we think we can.”

The Knights could’ve tied them in the Western Conference standings with a win. It’s that close right now.

But the Spits have enjoyed a lot of JLC success the past few years.

The last time Windsor was in London way back in November, they poured it on and handed the Knights one of their worst losses at home this season.

There has been a handful of those Knights stinkers this year. There are, Dale Hunter has said, a lot of nerves that go along with a young core group playing on a stage this big.

But they have to get over that. They won’t do much in the playoffs unless they do.

There’s still a lot of new to these Knights.

The playoffs have a fresh feel to MacQueen, who’s sporting a two-stitch gash on his face from Thursday night against Owen Sound. He was in Sarnia last season and missed the post-season.

His dad Dave was fired as Sting GM and coach on Super Bowl Sunday. He noticed the Sting beat the Knights in overtime Thursday in their first game under new coach Trevor Letowski.

“I saw that, but it doesn’t mean too much to me,” he said. “I’m here (in Windsor) now. I’m part of this team.”

MacQueen grew up with his dad as an OHL coach. He was a stick boy in Erie during the Otters’ great years.

“He’s been through it before,” the 19-year-old MacQueen said. “You never want to see your dad get fired as a coach, but he knows how to handle it. I’m just concentrating on playing for this team and doing what I can to help out.”

Windsor’s big guns sure showed up. Kassian scored his first goal in the last 10 with a typical power move.

Game glance

Spitfires 5, Knights 2

Windsor goals: Jeff Brown, Kenny Ryan, Zack Kassian, Tom Kuhnhackl, Taylor Carnevale

London goals: Andreas Athanasiou, Dane Fox

Next: The Knights face the Guelph Storm Sunday at 2 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre. The game is on Rogers Sportsnet.

E-mail ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca, or follow Ryanpyette on Twitter.


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