There’s one distinct crossover between the London Knights and the Western Mustangs hockey clubs this year. His name is Bill Dark.
The goalie coach’s clients have collectively reeled off 26 consecutive victories. The Knights and Mustangs are on 15-game and 11-game benders, respectively.
London will try to extend its winning streak with three games this week: Brampton on Thursday, Niagara on Friday, and Mississauga on Sunday. Western, however, has begun a month-long lull as school breaks for the holidays.
“It’s all in the hands of the Knights now,” joked Dark, 52.
This successful two-team run is not solely the result of great goaltending, of course, seeing as both squads have shown they can fill the net on a consistent basis.
Yet, there’s no two ways about it: Dark has impacted both winning streaks.
Take the Knights 5-3 come-from-behind victory over the Barrie Colts last Friday as an example. Twenty-year-old netminder Kevin Bailie was a changed man when he returned to London’s crease for the second period; the pair of goals he surrendered on four shots in the opening frame became a thing of the past.
“Mentally, that was a very strong performance from Bails,” Dark said. “There’s a lot of goalies who, once they give up two goals, they seem to lose focus.”
Bailie’s rebound control has gradually improved since coming over from the Oshawa Generals in a trade this summer. It’s obviously helped — the Belleville native ranking in the top three in most OHL goaltending categories after 21 games.
A 4-0 record and .944 save percentage even earned Bailie Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Week honours on Tuesday.
“When we picked him up, we knew we were getting a goalie with experience that we felt had underachieved in his time in the league,” Dark added.
Fellow backstopper Jake Patterson has developed into a real gamer for the Knights, too, kicking his rookie campaign — a write-off after suffering mononucleosis — to the curb. It’s too early to predict what the 18-year-old’s true potential is, but NHL Central Scouting has taken interest in Patterson, ranking him fifth amongst OHL goalies for the 2013 NHL draft.
As for Dark, he’s been with the Mustangs program for over a decade. The Knights hired him after spending three seasons as goalie coach for the Windsor Spitfires.
Goalies under Bill Dark’s watch
- Kevin Bailie, London — 21 games played, 13 wins, 2.20 goals-against average, 2 shutouts, .932 save percentage
- Jake Patterson, London — 12 GP, 10 wins, 2.12 GAA, 2 SO, .926 SV%
- Josh Unice, Western — 13 GP, 11 wins, 2.67 GAA, 1 SO, .915 SV%
- John Cullen, Western — 3 GP, 2 wins, 3.65 GAA, 0 SO, .891 SV%