February 27, 2011
Improbable still totally possible for Knights
By MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency
If the London Knights are going to do what was thought to be the improbable, they will have to do it on the road.
Improbable? After the Knights dealt their veterans at the trade deadline, most everyone believed they would have trouble making the playoffs.
The improbable is that not only will they make the playoffs, but they also have a chance at earning home-ice advantage for the first round.
That goal took a hit Saturday when the Knights’ four-game win streak came to a crashing halt in Plymouth.
The Whalers won 7-2 on a five-goal third period to move two points up on London in the OHL Western Conference.
The Whalers and Knights went into the game tied for fifth.
After Sunday’s games the Windsor Spitfires hold fourth place with 72 points, the Whalers are fifth with 71 and a game in hand on the Knights, who have 69 points, one up on the Erie Otters and a game in hand.
Even the Guelph Storm are still in the Knights’ rear view mirror. They’re four points back in eighth and play the Knights once more this season at home.
Oh yeah, nothing is settled.
The Knights have really had a remarkable run after the trade deadline.
“Other teams aren’t stupid,” said assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. “They saw what we traded away and maybe took us a little lightly.
“But not now. I think the young kids who got spot duty early had about 40 games to get used to the league and they’re starting to play.”
There have been plenty of tests for the young Knights.
Saturday against Plymouth was one of them.
London lead 2-0 early on goals by Colin Martin and Stephen Sanza.
But the Whalers fought their way back.
“It was 4-2 until midway through the third period,” Beaulieu said. “It just looked like we ran out of gas. It was our third game in three nights with some travel and it just got to us.
“We competed but we just looked tired.”
Stefan Noesen scored twice with singles to Mitchell Heard, Rickard Rackell, James Livingston, Alex Aleardi.
Igor Bobkov faced 30 shots in the London net.
The Knights were 0-for-7 on the power play while the Whalers went 3-for-6.
“Special teams were a big difference,” Beaulieu said. “We couldn’t do anything on the power play and they scored.”
In the Knights’ last four games, they’ve beaten Owen Sound, Saginaw and Windsor, and lost to Plymouth.
“The kids right now are listening,” Beaulieu said. “They’re playing the way we want them to.”
It’s a pretty good record, yet their real test begins Tuesday in Kitchener. This will determine where they finish.
The game with the Rangers is the first of five in succession on the road during a two-week span.
The Canadan men’s curling championship is taking up the John Labatt Centre for most of those two weeks.
After Kitchener, it’s then on to Windsor on Thursday and Mississauga on Friday.
Guelph and Owen Sound are the other stops before the Knights finally come home to play Sarnia on March 18.
“I think we’ve played better on the road than at home after the trade deadline,” Beaulieu said. “It’s a big test for us for sure. The big thing with us is that because of our youth we’re affected when we have multiple games.
“When you have a lot of senior guys, they carry the load with a lot of ice time, but we don’t have a lot of senior guys.”
But the young guys have shown a vital quality that’s needed especially after a bad night.
“These guys are pretty resilient,” Beaulieu said.
Something the Knights will need over a great deal of the next two weeks.