Knights skid into eighth

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:42 AM ET

GUELPH — So this is what it feels like to be in eighth place.

It tastes like tabasco-flavoured toothpaste, sounds like a busted muffler rattling under an old car and smells like Toronto during its summer garbage strike.

Forgive the London Knights if they had forgotten. They haven’t been this low in the OHL’s Western Conference standings this late in eight seasons.

But they’re stuck there now after being buried 5-1 by the Guelph Storm, who leapfrogged London into seventh place before 3,928 at the Sleeman Centre.

“It doesn’t feel too good (to be eighth),” London overage forward Dylan MacEachern said after a fifth straight road loss. “Our veteran guys, we have to lead the way here. Set the tone and get us back on the right path.

“We’re going to stick together. We’ve played balls out all year and we’re not going to stop now. Playing the good teams is going to help us. We’re going to find (what they had going for them in January) and have a good, long playoff run.”

A week off didn’t help much. Maybe they needed two after the six-shot debacle in Mississauga last Friday.

Goalie Michael Houser, the Knights’ MVP this season, didn’t last a half-period, thanks to a three-goal Guelph blitz. It’s the second time in three games he’s been yanked.

“The four goals here (in Guelph) was worse (than the Major beating by the Memorial Cup hosts),” London defenceman Scott Harrington said. “We had a week off. Maybe we had bus legs. We were better in the second and third, but it’s unfair to Mike. He’s stood on his head for us all year and he’s trying to get drafted like a lot of us in here.

“We have to do a better job protecting him.”

They’re running out of pre-playoff preparation time.

In one of their few must-win games of the year, the Knights came up lame.

They won’t get overage forward Kyle DeCoste back. He’s done for the year and needs shoulder surgery again after injuring it in practice. Defenceman Mike Moffat left the game late after a hit.

“When it rains, it pours,” MacEachern said, “but this team has heart. We’re not going to quit.”

Still, there are no silver linings here. The Storm are the OHL’s most erratic team — they looked bad in Sarnia Thursday, then resembled world-beaters against London.

“We underestimated Sarnia and we weren’t happy with what happened there,” former Knight Daniel Erlich said, “Seventh-place feels better (than eighth). We wanted to move up the standings. Now, we have three games left to try to stay there. We proved we’re going to be a dangerous team in the playoffs.

“We’re a darkhorse.”

In the third, Erlich got fired up in a scrum and went after Knights first-rounder Chris Tierney. Martin stepped in and put him in a headlock, but shouldn’t someone have steamrolled him for picking on a rookie?

“The guys know Dan well so I think they have a little more patience than they would with a guy that’s been around for six months,” London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. “Earl is Earl. We know how he plays.”

Erlich didn’t expect any repercussions.

“I played there for nearly four years and have a lot of friends on that team, great organization,” he said. “I knew no one was going to try anything just like they knew I wasn’t going to do anything to hurt anyone.”

The scoreboard stung enough.

This could’ve been a statement game for the Knights, who could end up 0-for-6 on their Brier-induced road trip if they can’t beat Joey Hishon and Co. in Owen Sound Saturday night.

“Playing against a team that’s trying to jump us in the standings and to give up four goals early, it’s unacceptable,” Beaulieu said.

But has London’s ship sailed? Are the Knights coaches worried they won’t be able to recover all the lost mojo in time?

“It’s our job to make sure they get it back,” Beaulieu said. “We’ve got some work to do. We have another game here this weekend to prove ourselves and try to move up (into seventh again).”

Game glance

Storm 5, Knights 1

Guelph goals: Cody McNaughton (2), Chris Van Laren, Andrey Pedan, Zack Mitchell

London goal: Jared Knight

Next: The Knights face the first-place Attack in Owen Sound on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ryanpyette


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