It begins on Friday in Erie, Pa., and ends nearly a month later, on March 17 in Sault Ste. Marie.
To close out their 2012-13 regular season, the London Knights will play nine of its 14 games in arenas not named Budweiser Gardens. Aside from a stretch of five games in late February, in which they’re away from home once, the team is a slave to the road.
As a player, Knights assistant coach Jeff Paul spent a decade toiling in the minor pro leagues — a place where your suitcase is your best friend. The first-year OHL bench boss says in order to succeed as the visiting squad, a “workman’s attitude” must be harnessed.
“Staying disciplined,” Paul said, “and, of course, keeping the crowd out of it. They’re one in the same a lot of the times, too.”
With a three-game losing skid hanging over their heads, a trip south this weekend should pay dividends for London. After all, they have a better winning percentage on the road, having won 19 out of 25 games compared to 20 of 29 at home.
“On the road, I think it’s just a matter of playing simple, buying into your systems, and getting pucks deep,” said Knights rearguard Justin Sefton.
The club caught a break on Thursday, as they found out Ryan Rupert’s suspension has been lifted. The 18-year-old had been tagged with a three-gamer, for spearing an opponent on Sunday, but the OHL has overruled the original match penalty.
The spear itself is still under review and could result in further discipline. For now, though, Rupert is not suspended.
You can bet the feisty forward will be making his presence felt as soon as possible. When the Knights battle the Niagara IceDogs in their ancient St. Catharines barn on Sunday, it’s almost a guarantee Rupert will be front and centre.
On the flip side, London blueliners will have their hands full with Niagara’s NHL-ready duo of Ryan Strome and Brett Ritchie.
“They’ve got a smaller rink, you can’t hide out there. The key to shutting down a guy like Strome, or Ritchie, is to get in their face,” Sefton added.
At: Erie Insurance Arena, 7 p.m.
Versus: Erie Otters
The hot hand: Connor Brown (25 goals, 37 assists)
At: Gatorade Garden City Complex, 2 p.m.
Versus: Niagara IceDogs
The hot hand: Ryan Strome (31 goals, 45 assists)
*London plays Erie again on Monday. The 2 p.m. game is at Budweiser Gardens.