Who's up next in the London Knights' net?

London Knights' goalie Jake Patterson reacts to a goal scored on him by Halifax Mooseheads' Martin...

London Knights' goalie Jake Patterson reacts to a goal scored on him by Halifax Mooseheads' Martin Frk during the first period of the Memorial Cup Canadian Junior Hockey Championships in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Todd Korol (CANADA - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:39 PM ET

SASKATOON - Every day of this Memorial Cup, Dale Hunter gets asked who's up next in the London Knights' net.

It's always a mystery, though it's evident he should turn back to Anthony Stolarz for the season-saving tiebreaker game Thursday night.

But the big question when the Knights fly home is this: who will be in net for them in the first game of the 2014 Memorial Cup at Budweiser Gardens?

Stolarz, Jake Patterson or somebody else?

“Stolarz and Patterson are our guys,” London GM Mark Hunter said. “They got us here. We like these two players and they're going to be a good tandem. They'll learn from the experience here, the elite talent there is, and it's only going to help them out for next year.”

Both guys have struggled, but you can't hang 15 goals in back-to-back games entirely on the last line of defence.

“They (Halifax) had backdoor plays on us,” Dale Hunter said. “It was tough on the goalies but they're in good spirits and we'll see what happens. You have to stay out of the penalty box. You seen their power play. They move the puck well. Portland moves it. You play hard between the whistles, play the body and stay out of the box.

“Now, we're in that predicament. It's do-or-die every game we play.”

The Knights feel like they have left their goaltenders down.

"We take full responsibility,” forward Max Domi said. “Every single goal was just being lazy on a backcheck or guys (alone) in front of the net. All those goals are pretty much empty-netters and we've got to be better. You can't blame anything on anyone, and if anything, it's ourselves in front of the goalies. We've got to help them out more.

“As far as we're concerned, they're great goaltenders and they're going to do what it takes to win. Whoever starts the next game is going to be great.”

There's no telling how the Knights will respond.

They're embarrassed and angry for not being ready to play Halifax. They're a proud group and they hate being laughingstocks.

“We're not here to make excuses,” Mark Hunter said. “We have to be better. We like to win. At the end of the day, it's not nice, national TV, to get beat the score we did.”

They know their success over the last 10 years has made them a target and the butt of jokes the last 24 hours.

“It's the snarky stuff,” Mark Hunter said. “Jealous people. We don't look at that. We look at it as we lost. It doesn't matter if we lost 9-2 or 3-2. We know we can play better. We weren't prepared and a little bit tired and hopefully, we will have more energy (Thursday night).”

London is pointing to its OHL final comeback against Barrie, its 24-game winning streak and drawing inspiration from the 2009 Windsor Spitfires and the Shawinigan team that beat them in last year's final – still the only two teams to win the Cup from the tiebreaker game.

“Windsor (in '09 at Rimouski) didn't have the greatest round-robin just like us,” overager Tyler Ferry said, “and then they went to the tiebreak game as underdogs and then started steamrolling teams and won two straight Memorial Cups. People may have counted us out but we haven't lost faith yet.”

Predictably, Dale Hunter has shuffled up the lines. He and his brother doesn't believe these last two games indicate a lingering fatigue after two long seasons with short summers. Scott Harrington, Olli Maatta, Domi and Bo Horvat have played an exhausting amount of hockey.

“They're throughbreds,” Mark Hunter said. “Thoroughbreds want to race. The back-to-back (games) is something. We showed some of our youngness as a hockey club here. We're dependent on a lot of 1995 (born-players) and our '94s. We don't have as many (19- and 20-year-olds). You look at our '93s. How many do we really have? Not many.”

The Knights don't believe these results are related to knowing they have a host cushion at next year's Cup.

“We don't want to come out empty-handed because that would be two years in a row, that would be pretty tough,” Ferry said. “Any loss in a short tournament, they all hurt. Two in a row, that really hurts. This team will be fine next year. All the core players are smart guys. Dale knows when they need to work out and when to rest.

“When we heard (London had the '14 Cup), guys were excited but around me and (fellow overager) Tommy Hughes, they didn't say as much because we won't be around. I just knew if London wasn't awarded it, They would be there anyway. The team coming back is so strong. It wouldn't have been right if they didn't get it.”

It didn't, he thinks, sap them of their desires.

“The attitude was, 'Cool, we got it next year,” Ferry said, “ so let's go win it this year and then win two in a row.”

Right now, it will take a legendary effort to get one.

 

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/RyanatLFPress

 

 


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