When the London Knights fell back to earth on New Year’s Day, they lost a lot of swagger. Many thought the top team in the Ontario Hockey League would dust itself off, though, and leap back into space.
To date, that has not happened.
The overtime loss to the Sarnia Sting on Jan. 1 ended a 24-game winning streak spanning two months. In the 15 matches since win No. 24, the Knights have more losses and than wins for a pedestrian 7-8 record.
“It’s more frustration than anything,” said London assistant general manager Rob Simpson. “You win 24 in a row like that, and have a such good, long streak — and then all of a sudden you’ve lost three in a row, a couple the week before …”
After a weekend of hockey they’d like to have back — three 4-3 defeats to conference rivals — London is faced with the task of halting a three-game losing streak for the second time in 2013.
Simpson says the squad, which is still 11 points up on the Barrie Colts and Kitchener Rangers for the OHL regular season crown, needs to “tidy up” in preparation for this week’s action, which includes road games versus the Erie Otters and Niagara IceDogs.
Steering clear of the penalty box at key moments of the game would be a good starting point.
London pest Matt Rupert, unsuccessful in inviting Owen Sound Attack forward Cameron Brace to fight, left the club in an awkward situation Friday, as he cruised to the box early in the third period. Brace set up teammate Steven Janes for the game-winning goal on the ensuing power play.
On Sunday, Knights sniper Seth Griffith was watching from the sin bin when the eventual game-winner was potted by Kitchener forward Tobias Rieder. He was also assessed a game misconduct, joining the team’s other Rupert, Ryan, in the dressing room after the latter had speared an opponent for a major penalty and misconduct of his own.
“We were coming out on the other side of one-goal games before,” said Knights assistant captain Tommy Hughes. “We have some good practice time here to get back on track.”
Hughes is correct. Prior to this past weekend, London was victorious in 15 of 20 contests decided by a goal, for an 75 per cent success rate. Now, they’re running at a 65 per cent clip.
Sunday’s loss takes bite out of top six
- Seth Griffith, who is third in the OHL scoring race, has a broken bone on one of his hands. The Knights sniper injured it while blocking a shot in Kitchener. Simpson says there’s “no time table (on Griffith’s return date) yet.”
- Knights forward Ryan Rupert has been suspended a minimum of three games for spearing Kitchener forward Derek Schoenmakers. A full punishment from the OHL is forthcoming.