March 03, 2007

London Over Ottawa 3 - 1

The Western Conference and OHL leading London Knights came to town tonight for the first of their 3 game swing through eastern Ontario. It was interesting to follow the forum discussions back in 2005 when it was widely understood that Dale Hunter had sold his soul and that of the London organization to have a winning team for the Memorial Cup and that it would be followed by several years of drought. Guess what sports fans, it hasn’t quite turned out that way. London came out on top of the Western Conference last year and is looking good for it again this year.

London notes: scratches for tonight were Kevin Bodker, Trevor Solomon, Robbie Drummond, Andrew Wilkins and Luke VanMoerkerke. Steve Mason started in net. Interesting to note that London did not place anyone on Team Ontario which is playing for gold in the Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse tonight. Coach Dale Hunter is taking a league imposed two game time out. Apparently he voiced some serious concern over the quality of refereeing recently.

Ottawa notes: Julian Cimadamore continues heal and Tyler Cuma and Cody Lindsay are in Whitehorse with Team Ontario playing for gold. Go Team Ontario Go!! Jordan Gallea has been brought up. Brady Morrison started between the pipes.

Lines for tonight – this is kinda tricky with all the penalties and mixing that happened but for the most part it looked sort kinda like:
McGinn, Couture, Lahey with Bailey thrown in for a while in place of Lahey
Bailey, Kiriakou, Methot
Liscomb, Cowie, Alphonso
Nesbitt, Ribeiro, Gallea

Defensive pairings: mostly Joslin - Vojta, Grimaldi – Beard, Demers – Ryan.

It took only 1:34 for Ottawa to get the first of its 9 penalties of the night when Mathieu Methot was tagged for hooking. London plays 5 forwards on the ice as their PP unit while Ottawa started with the usual first PK unit of Cowie, Kiriakou, Joslin and Voyta. Ottawa did a great job of defending against one of the better PP units in the league (sorry – didn’t pick up their stats pre-game). Efforts like the blocked shot by Joslin and the poke check by Kiriakou at the blue line make the difference. It also helps when your goalie is a good defender and Brady Morrison stopped all four shots that made it to him during the PK. At the other end of the ice, Steve Mason did a pretty good job of keeping London in the game with a great save when Brody Beard jumped up into the slot for the first Ottawa shot on goal (7 minutes into the game). Mason continued to do really well on both shots during Ottawa’s first PP of the game. Ottawa was doing well fore checking and breaking out quickly from their own zone but London was able to pounce on a defensive breakdown to get on the board first. At 11;12 Sergei Kostitsyn notched his 32nd goal of the year when he was left all alone in front of Brady. Sam Gagner and goalie Steve Mason got the assists. With Matt Lahey off for hooking, Ottawa had a chance at a short handed goal when Ottawa iced the puck and Mason made a go for it before he realized it was in the goalie no-man’s land. Kiriakou got to it first but was unable bury it. Great effort on his part. Ottawa was doing a credible job of killing the penalty but a great pass from Patrick Kane to David Meckler gave him basically a wide open net and he made good on it to put London up by 2. Ottawa had a good chance to get back into the game with a couple of penalties late in the period. It started with Jordan Foreman getting the call for slashing at 15:36. Ottawa managed just one shot on goal but then Kevin Montgomery was called for boarding Grimaldi which gave Ottawa the 5-on-3 advantage for 37 seconds. Lots of activity in these few seconds. London’s Martinelli was stung when he blocked a shot from Logan Couture from inside the blue line. Then there was a huge scrum in the crease that resulted in a penalty shot being awarded to Jamie McGinn. It wasn’t clear to me what happened but I think a London player got tagged for covering the puck in the crease. Jamie made a good go of it but Mason was pretty invincible tonight and made the save. He’s a big lad and pretty much fills the net. What he doesn’t fill he covers with some pretty good athleticism. By the end of the PP, Ottawa managed to put 8 shots on Mason and bury none of them. With 14 seconds left in the period, Jamie McGinn was called for interference while he was attempting to get onside. The Team 1200 guys were unimpressed with the call.

The first period ended with the score 0 – 2 for London and SOGs 18 – 12 for Ottawa

Ottawa started the second period on the PK for 1:46. With Jamie in the sin-bin, Jason Bailey replace him on the second PK unit. The only shot on goal by London was a fast wrist shot by Sergei Kostitsyn on which Brady made a stellar glove save. At about 6 minutes into the frame Joe Grimaldi was tagged on a questionable tripping call. As the first PK unit of Cowie, Kiriakou, Vojta and Joslin were going for the line change, Mason played the puck up the ice and Vojta made a great head’s up play to notice, stop in his tracks and engage in defending against the incoming green tide. Unfortunately his replacement, Sean Ryan, didn’t make the necessary compensating adjustment and Ottawa was called for two many men on the ice. This gave London the two-man advantage for 1:06. Brady Morrison made a great save right off the next face-off and Ottawa went on to successfully kill both penalties. My stats could be wrong but I think Ottawa kept London to perhaps 3 SOGs for both penalties. Not at all shabby against perhaps the best PP in the league. We noted that the game was getting physical, not in a dirty way but in a good hockey way. While Brett Liscomb was off for a kneeing call, London showed just why they have a successful PP. They were doing a really good job of cycling the puck but Ottawa was doing an equally good job of pressing and shutting down the shooting lanes. London managed only 2 shots on goal – neither of which made a difference. But London did manage to make good with their aggressive fore checking and Ottawa’s inability to win the boards. With 2:36 left in the period, London’s Justin Taylor got the 3-goal lead with assists from Jordan Foreman and Kevin Montgomery. The period ended with a nasty head check by Todd Perry on Aaron Alphonso as he was breaking across the London blue line with the puck. It knocked Aaron’s helmet off and he landed on his kiester. Surprisingly it only resulted in two minutes for Perry. I guess Dale Hunter’s moaning and groaning about how penalties are unfairly called against London got to Carman Cox. Two games might not be such a big price if it gets the zebras thinking about your point.

The period ended with London up by 3 and leading SOGs 27 – 20. Ottawa managed only 2 SOGs the whole period. It’s a wonder that Mason didn’t fall asleep.

So, the third period opened with Ottawa on the PP for 1:03. Ottawa managed a couple of SOGs with the man advantage. But a couple of seconds after the PP had ended Logan Couture spoiled the shut-out when his centering pass from the corner bounced off something and ended up behind Mason and in the net. Without the benefit of the replay to confirm it, it sure looked to me like it actually bounced off Mason himself. This was quickly followed by a tripping call against Joslin. Again, Ottawa did a good job of limiting London to only one shot on goal. But they also got lucky when a London shot rung off the post and stayed out. London’s Adam Perry “seemed” to get pretty hurt when he ran into an official in open ice but I don’t think he missed a shift. On a following play, Brady Morrison made another great save as a swarm of green sweaters descended upon him. In another bit of on-ice drama, Mathieu Methot laid a clean, hard hit on Jordan Foreman who lay some time on the ice while the team trainer attended him. I don’t think the time he spent on the bench “recovering” was commensurate with the time he spent on the ice suggesting that the hit took a greater toll than it did. He did manage to get the play whistled so it was worth something. Ottawa continued to put great pressure on London but they just couldn’t buy a goal against Mason. Liscomb worked hard after an uncalled check to the head to regain puck possession and draw a slashing penalty by Gagner. As time wound down, Ottawa pulled Brady for the extra attacker but Ottawa was unable to get through.

London notched a win with a score of 3 - 1. Ottawa had the slight edge on shots: 36 – 35.

Stars for the game:

1. Steve Mason (London goalie – 34 saves)
2. Sergei Kostitsyn (London forward – goal and an assist)
3. Logan Couture (goal)

Team 1200 Hardest working 67: Derek Joslin

Random Thoughts:

  • Some disagreement on the ride home about the performance of the 67s. I thought that for the most part, Ottawa made London work for their win. The spousal unit thought that London only played as much as they needed to secure the win. Perhaps a bunch of elite athletic young men (teenagers really) are clever enough to gauge and adjust their efforts mid-game to conserve their energies for the rest of the weekend. NOT!
  • Ottawa’s PK was pretty darn good against London’s PP. They did a good job of pressuring London and limiting their scoring changes.
  • Kiriakou may not be getting a ton of goals but I sure like the role he plays. His efforts on the PK are great and it would be nice to know his face off stats.
  • For all that, I thought Ottawa was still not quite a hockey machine. Passes were not getting to and being received by players as well one would want from a contending team. London was much crisper in this department.
  • While I have absolutely no complaints about the play of Brad Morrison tonight, one certainly has to give a ton of credit to Steve Mason. He clearly earned the first star tonight. He really fills the net, anticipates the shot and moves quickly. He leads the league in wins and in all other views of the stats, he has put in more time than anyone ahead of him in the rankings. That kind of goaltending gives the rest of the team a lot of confidence to play aggressively.

Ottawa has tomorrow off and then they travel to Oshawa for a 3:30 Sunday afternoon game where both teams are looking to end losing streaks. Here’s hoping for a successful road trip for the barber poles.

Go 67s Go!!

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