When the London Knights have a team on the ropes, they rarely whiff.
They have a tendency to finish series off as soon as possible.
Not since the 2007 OHL post-season’s second round — they dropped games three through six to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, before winning the series in seven — have the Knights lost when trying to clinch a series on the first attempt.
In series where they’ve taken strangleholds, owning either a 3-0, 3-1 or 3-2 series lead, London simply does not lose the next time out. They’ve won nine straight in those scenarios.
Win No. 10 could come Friday night, as the Knights welcome the Plymouth Whalers to Budweiser Gardens for Game 5 of the Western Conference final.
London has a 3-1 advantage following road wins in games three and four, both at a 6-4 clip.
“I think we’ve got a lot of character in the room, guys who know what it takes to win big games,” said London forward Seth Griffith, who has 12 points in 13 games in his third OHL playoff run.
Through four contests, the London-Plymouth series has featured a copious amount of drama.
Perceived missed calls, a dominating hat-trick, multiple comebacks, thrilling overtime action, a fined coach — you name it, it’s probably happened already.
The Knights best players — Griffith, Bo Horvat, Max Domi, Scott Harrington and Alex Broadhurst — have performed admirably. Secondary guys, like Nikita Zadorov, Remi Elie and Chris Tierney, are carrying their load, too.
Slamming the door in Plymouth’s face, though, won’t be easy. Game 5 will undoubtedly be a dogfight.
“I think everyone realizes how big it is to close off a series (on the first try),” Knights overager Tyler Ferry said. “It is tough to do, especially against a team like Plymouth because they’re not going to back down. It’s a race to four, not a race to three.”
All eyes will be on Whalers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. The 17-year-old was yanked in Game 4 after allowing four goals on London’s first 11 shots.
Ferry feels London’s persistence, and more specifically the 122 pucks fired at the Whalers net in the opening three games, finally paid off.
Knights injury update
- Forward Josh Anderson (day-to-day with an undisclosed injury) — left in the third period of Game 4 due to soreness; coaches say he is probable for Game 5
- Forward Matt Rupert (day-to-day with a lower body injury) — skated by himself Thursday, albeit without full equipment; coaches say a Game 5 return is doubtful
Rupert staying out of trouble in playoffs
What’s more impressive: Ryan Rupert’s current seven-game point streak, or the fact that the pest has accrued only six penalty minutes all playoffs?
Probably Option B — although the London Knight’s consistency on offence is commendable as well.
Suspended twice in the regular season and apparently learned, Rupert has noticeably calmed down. Those bans came in the wake of a verbal confrontation with an official (three games) and a blatant check to an opponent’s head (10 games).
In 13 playoff games so far, the 18-year-old has been assessed just a single undisciplined penalty, an unsportsmanlike conduct minor on Wednesday. During last year’s post-season, the Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick picked up 31 penalty minutes in 19 contests.
“I guess I’ve learned over the years,” said the forward from Grand Bend, cracking a smile.
Rupert, far from big at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, says he’s been consciously using his stick for only legal maneuvers lately. Aside from a hooking call in Game 5 versus the Kitchener Rangers, he’s shied away from unnecessary stick work.
“It’s just a smarter way to play, I think,” said Rupert, who has recorded six goals and five assists in the post-season. “You can’t be in the box in the playoffs, especially against the Plymouth Whalers, who have a good power play.”