Knights effective in shutting down Hishon

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:38 PM ET

Joey Hishon loves the John Labatt Centre.

“When I was younger, I used to come here about 15 times a year for Knights games,” the Owen Sound Attack star forward said. “It’s a great place to play. I have a lot of memories.”

He captured a world under-17 gold medal on this ice. In the lone game the Attack won in London back in the fall, Hishon manhandled the Knights.

But most of the time in his four-year OHL career, London trips have been nightmares. Like Bobby Ryan before him, he’s the face of an Attack team that has historically flopped at the JLC.

And Saturday night’s 5-1 loss in London, which evened the Western Conference quarterfinal 1-1, was a complete disaster.

It’s exactly the way London coach Dale Hunter envisioned it: Shut down Hishon and the Attack will fall out of whack.

It’s the Knights’ Hishon mission. Get the Stratford kid off his game and Owen Sound is headed for a swan dive.

Hishon decked Dylan MacEachern 11 seconds into Game 2 and was called for boarding. Seth Griffith scored eight seconds later and the favoured Attack, for all their scoring chances, never sniffed an equalizer.

Hishon, the Attack’s best player, only has two assists in two games. He has yet to solve the magnificent Michael Houser, who has stopped 101 shots in two games .

“He’s been unbelievable,” the 19-year-old Colorado Avalanche first-rounder said of the Knights goalie. “That’s all you can say.”

Hishon’s shadow — London captain Stephen Sanza — hasn’t just annoyed him. He also has two big goals.

“I know when he (Hishon) is on the ice, I’m going to be out there too,” the overager said.

He was out there in the third period when Hishon, the best stickhandler in the league, coughed off the puck to Colin Martin, who made a sweet spin pass to spring speedy Sanza for his breakaway goal.

“I have a lot of things going through my head on a breakaway,” Sanza said with a grin.

He’s in the Attack’s head right now.

“They (the Knights’ checking line) have done a good job against us,” Hishon said.

And they’re poised to do a better job of it on home ice.

Last change at the JLC affords Hunter the luxury of reducing Sanza’s ice time by three or four minutes and keep him sharp.

“In Owen Sound, you have those times where you have to put Stevie out for the faceoff just in case (Hishon’s on),” London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said, “but if you lose the draw and you’re in your own end running around, he might be on 30 or 40 seconds before he can change.

“That’s why we have to do better on our draws. At home, we get to put our stick in the circle last and that should help.”

The Knights could feel the strategy working. They managed to score the third-period goal — three of them, in fact — they couldn’t muster Friday in Owen Sound.

“Everyone just had a smile on their face and kept going,” London captain Stephen Sanza said. “We played very well offensively and defensively.”

And they have Houser.

“He’s played outstanding all year,” Sanza said.

The Attack have plenty of pests. Michael Halmo has taken it upon himself to try to drive Jarred Tinordi batty every shift.

“He’s just being an agitator for them,” Tinordi said. “I’m not letting it bother me.”

But Hishon is in on it, too. His target is Houser, the MVP to this point.

When Owen Sound scored their lone Game 2 goal, Hishon glided by and gave Houser an earful. Houser squirted him with his water bottle.

It’s been back-and-forth between the two all year, according to Houser.

Hishon believes the Attack’s depth of secondary scoring in this series will shine through.

“I don’t think we’re just a one-line team,” he said.

Owen Sound knows it doesn’t have to win at the JLC to take the series. But the Knights, more bold than ever now, believe they can steal a game at the Bayshore.

“I would like to have more success here,” Hishon said after Game 2.

The JLC always feels like home for him.

But he resembles now all the past stars who came into the JLC to clash with those Hunter team he grew up watching — and left here scratching their heads.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/ryanpyette

Knights vs. Attack

(Best-of-seven series tied 1-1)

Game 3: Tuesday, 7 p.m. at Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.

Game 4: Thursday, 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.


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