Nationals drop opener
London Community News
By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
London Nationals’ head coach Kelly Thomson is hoping his team’s Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season opener Wednesday (Sept. 5) against the Strathroy Rockets was just a stumble out of the starting block.
“Throughout our lineup we had some guys that had very irregular game, making mistakes that we count on them not to make,” Thomson said, after a 6-5 loss in a rematch of last year’s Western Conference final. “That will straighten itself out basically on its own. A lot of those guys know the mistakes that they made, we don’t have to correct them.”
It was a game filled with bad decisions for London and the second period could be scratched up as a 20-minute brain fart for the defending conference champions, giving up four goals — three consecutive on the power play — and scoring none to make the game 5-3.
Blake Thomas, playing his first game in a Nationals jersey, bullied his way towards the Rockets net to tie the game within four minutes of the start of the third frame, but Stuart King scored the game’s final goal to help give Strathroy a little revenge from the last postseason.
“You know exactly what you’re going to get out of him all the time,” Thomson said of Thomas, a 6-foot-2, 200-pounder in his fifth year in the league. “You know he’s going to go in front of the net and win battles and as a coach all you can ask for is a guy that is going to do things consistently.”
The Nationals looked to have their toughest time on defence, but with only captain Scott Lombardi being the only player returning on the blue line from last year who saw regular playing time, it may take a few games before the defenders to play together.
“We don’t have a lot of chemistry yet, we just made the final cuts yesterday,” said London goaltender Taylor Edwards. “We haven’t even had a full practice as a team yet.”
Until the Nationals defence can figure out perfect pairings, the fifth-year netminder might be the most reliable protector in the back—at least for now.
Edwards started getting regular playing time in the 2010-11 season and has been eating pucks up with .900 plus save percentage since starting between the pipes, winning 40 of the 57 games he opened.
“I’ve got to go out and play every game like I have to get a shutout,” Edwards said, stopping 27 shots in Wednesday’s loss. “I want to have the best numbers I’ve ever put up before.”
Having a consistent goalie is no secret recipe to finishing high in the standings and going deep in the playoffs, and no doubt Edwards played a key part in the Nationals earning their first title in 20 years last season. But, if London is relying on their goalie to help take them far this year, the Nationals’ bench boss isn’t showing it.
“Eddie’s always got to be good, but the hope is this year Eddie doesn’t have to be as good as he has had to be the last couple of years,” Thomson said, adding he has no doubt his goaltender will keep up the performance, though.
London will travel to St. Mary’s for their next game to take on the Lincolns on Sunday (Sept. 9).
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