Dale Hunter is often a man of few words until he wants the media to talk about something other than how his London Knights are playing.
Out of possible exasperation with the officials, or confusion stemming from the London Knights being down 3-1 in the Ontario Hockey League final, Hunter delivered a classic post-game tirade on Wednesday. Following the Barrie Colts' 6-4 comeback win, where Mark Scheifele scored four of the underdogs' five third-period goals to push London to the brink of elimination, Hunter accused the Winnipeg Jets first-rounder and his teammates of auditioning for Celebrity Diving.
It probably beats addressing the Knights' inability to suppress Scheifele, who has scored or assisted on 12 of the Colts' 17 goals through four games. Or why goalie Anthony Stolarz has allow 10 goals on 53 shots in the past two games. Or why
"Actually we played very well, got a 3-1 lead and the last six minutes of the second period, they started diving," Hunter said in a post-game press conference on Rogers Television. "And Belleville [which the Colts beat in the OHL Eastern final] warned us about that. Scheifele, these guys, they love to dive and draw penalties. They do three in a row and its changes the course of the game that way. It's a tough call when the referees, when people dive, they don't know whether it's a true hook or not a hook. Unfortunately, that's what they've been doing and they did it in the round before. It changed the course of the game.
"It's tough on the referees. If they're going to get away with it, we're going to have to do it also. It doesn't make for a very good hockey game. The National Hockey League, they have a rule, if you're on the list [of habitual divers], they don't get the calls."
London played short-handed for five minutes 24 seconds over the final eight minutes of second period. Forwards Alex Broadhurst (high-sticking at 12:18 and hooking at 16:07) and Bo Horvat (slashing at 18:36) were sent off. The Colts, who mustered only 10 shots through the opening 40 minutes, did next to nothing with those man advantages.
That said, the Horvat penalty carried over to the third period, helping the Colts gain the zone off the opening faceoff. They pulled to 3-2 when Scheifele scored 44 seconds into the frame. With the Barrie Molson Centre crowd of 4,196 fully roused, Josh MacDonald tied the game on the next shift.
The Knights regained the lead on a tip-in by Toronto Maple Leafs pick Ryan Rupert. That lead lasted only 1:14 before Scheifele replied. Each team got one more power play. Scheifele scored on Barrie's for the eventual winning goal, while the Knights failed to build much pressure on their man advantage.
First time Colts have had more PPs
The Knights have struggled to hold leads in the playoffs. In the Western Conference final against Plymouth, they squandered multiple-goal leads during three of their four victories and also gave up a last-minute game-tying goal in their lone loss of the five-game series. The third period fell into that pattern. Still, Hunter maintained the penalty calls were the tipping point.
"I feel bad for them because it's a tough call to make," Hunter said, referring to the referees Mike Cairns and Scott Ferguson. "It puts them in a bad situation. Anything that changes the momentum of the game is the most important in the game, no matter what it is."
Wednesday was the first time in the series Barrie received more power plays, going 1-for-5 on the PP to London's 0-for-2. Across the four games, the Colts are 3-for-15 and the Knights are 4-for-19.
If this was an attempt to rile the Colts, well, coach Dale Hawerchuk didn't bite.
"He's going to do what he feels he has to do for his club and we do what we have to do for our club," Hawerchuk said placidly. "It [diving] is not in our mandate. We focus on what we have to do to be good. I'm not worried about what they're talking about."
Ferguson, as it happens, also worked Game 3 in the Plymouth-London series on April 23. After the Knights pulled out a 6-4 win, Whalers coach-GM Mike Vellucci referred the officials as "incompetent" and was fined $7,500 by the OHL. Hunter said nothing about the officials, likely meaning no fine.
Meantime, the Knights have rarely faced a 3-1 series deficit. Even as the eighth seed in the 2011 playoffs, they were even at 2-2 in the first round vs. eventual league champion Owen Sound. In any event, Hunter has stirred it up ahead of Game 5 (7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One).
"It's a hockey game, it's 3-1 in the series," he said. "Belleville was down 3-1 in the last series [before extending Barrie to seven games]. Everybody, you've played the game, you've been in those situations."
#OHL said before the series Knights would win. Only chance Colts had was if Scheifele played unconscious and Stolarz fell apart. Guess what
— Morris Dallacosta(@MoDaCoatLFPress) May 9, 2013
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com (audio courtesy John Matisz, Metro London).