Dale Hunter isn’t blaming poor goaltending. Nor is he interested in chatting with the media about his team’s inability to hold a two-goal lead in Game 4 of the Ontario Hockey League championship series.
No, Hunter is pointing his index finger squarely at Dale Hawerchuck and his Barrie Colts.
Hunter’s London Knights, ahead 3-1 after 40 minutes Wednesday, lost 6-4 in front of 4,196 at the Molson Centre in Barrie. Trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven, the Knights have their backs against the wall.
In a post-game press conference, the former Washington Capitals bench boss went on a tirade that accused the Colts of diving.
“We played very well, had a 3-1 lead,” Hunter started, “(And then) in the last six minutes or so of the second period, they started diving.”
“(The Belleville Bulls) warned us about that,” he continued, “but (Colts forward Mark) Scheifele and these guys love to dive and draw penalties. They drew three in a row and it changed the course of the game that way.”
There were three straight minors assessed to the Knights in the second. Alex Broadhurst went off twice — first for high-sticking at 12:18 and then, at 16:07, for hooking — while Bo Horvat was given the gate for a hook at 18:36.
Overall, Barrie went 1-for-5 on the power play. The lone capitalization, scored midway through the third, was the eventual game-winner.
In response to the allegations, Barrie’s coach, Hawerchuck, said Hunter is “going to do what he feels he has to do for his club. We did what we had to do for our club, but (diving) is not in our mandate.”
Hunter would not fault the officiating, repeatedly saying “it’s tough” for the referees when Barrie is “diving.”
The after-the-buzzer comments overshadowed a massive collapse by London, which had a reeling Anthony Stolarz at the epicenter.
The 19-year-old Philadelphia Flyers second-rounder surrendered five goals on 25 shots. In Game 3, he wasn’t much better (five goals on 28 shots).
London was two goals ahead Wednesday. They had Barrie right where they wanted them.
And then the wheels fell off in the final 20.
Winnipeg Jets blue-chipper Mark Scheifele scored a natural hat-trick, with his first crossing the line 44 seconds in. The Kitchener native finished with four goals and an assist, his second five-spot in as many games.
“We said, ‘We have to buckle down here. We’ve got to take advantage of this opportunity,’” Scheifele, 20, said, noting what was discussed in the Colts room prior to the start of the third.
Hunter, who is usually quick to pull his goalie when the opposition is in control, did not make a change in Game 4.
Afterwards, he wouldn’t say if the club would consider starting back-up Jake Patterson in Game 5. “We always reevaluate (our goaltending following) every game,” he said.
So, with all of this drama, what could Friday’s Game 5 bring?
“If they’re going to get away with it,” Hunter said of Barrie’s alleged diving, “we’re going to have to do it also.”
The “series isn’t even close to being finished,” added London captain Scott Harrington.
On the bright side for London
- Olli Maatta, one of his club’s top players in Game 4 due to excellent defensive play all night, picked up an assist in the losing effort. The import rearguard now has points in five consecutive games.
- Pesky forward Matt Rupert returned to the Knights lineup, suiting up for the first time in 10 games.