Friday night hockey preview
It may not have the cachet of the London-Kitchener rivalry, but the Storm and Knights matchup is becoming an intriguing one in the Ontario Hockey League. The two teams met in a playoff series in five of the last eight years, with the Knights holding a 4-1 edge during that span.
Guelph’s series victory over London in 2004 halted a potential back-to-back champion. The Knights went on to win the MasterCard Memorial Cup the next year on home ice, defeating the Storm in a first-round series sweep after the previous year’s seven-game series to determine the Western Conference champion.
Watch the Knights host the Storm on Sportsnet ONE and Ontario at 7 p.m. ET.
Those players are long gone, but the close proximity and recent meetings are rekindling the healthy hatred between both teams.
“They are a rival,” said Chris Hajt, Storm assistant coach, who is taking over for head coach Scott Walker, an assistant on Canada’s world junior team. “You want to play against London and going into their building — it’s a great building to play in and a great atmosphere with lots of energy.”
The Knights lead the season series with three wins in three games. Two of the three meetings were decided by a goal and in extra time. The Storm held the high-powered Knights offence to two goals or less in two of the three meetings.
Can the Storm’s defence continue to slow down the Knights offence?
Few teams have had the success disrupting London’s offence as much as the Storm. Although they lost all three games so far, two of them could have gone either way. As Hajt indicates, his team finds success through work ethic, goaltending and a chip on their shoulders.
“Our team needs to work hard, they need to compete and the games we’ve played them, we’ve gotten good goaltending,” he said. “I think any time we’re playing the No. 1 team in the country, you have a certain amount of fear that these guys are No. 1 for a reason and we better be ready to play.”