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Knights hammer Sting 8-0

By RYAN PYETTE, LONDON FREE PRESS
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There’s one sure-fire way for a hockey player to erase a bad first half to the season.
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Play the second like you’re possessed.
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Phil Varone has returned to London a revamped sniper.
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The veteran Knight had just four goals in his first 27 games. Too few for a 19-year-old forward. Not enough pucks in the net for a San Jose Sharks draft pick.
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But in his three games back after the holiday break, he has scored five times.
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One in Guelph last Tuesday for the appetizer.
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Then, two against the Sting on New Year’s Eve and two more power-play markers in last night’s 8-0 blowout win in Sarnia before 4,061 at the RBC Centre.
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“I changed the curve on my stick,” the Vaughan native said. “I made it more straight to control the puck better and the passes these guys are giving me, I have to put them in. I just think I needed the break to clear my head.”
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Wipe the slate clean and start over again.
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Just like his Knights.
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They ended 2009 with a bad 4-3 loss to the Sting on New Year’s Eve.
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But who’ll remember that after posting their big eight-spot, which deteriorated in fisticuffs, ill will and Sarnia assistant coach Greg Walters yelling back and forth with London coach Dale Hunter about who was on the ice in the final few minutes?
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“It’s a long season and you’ll get games where you lose to a team like that,”  Varone said. “I think they were just frustrated at the end. Their coach sent out one of their tough guys but we did the right thing. We just skated away because we know we have bigger and better things in store.”
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The victory propelled the Knights back into a first-place tie with Kitchener, who lost in Saginaw last night. London faces the Spirit today at 2 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.
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A day after their NHL parent club Boston beat Philly at Fenway Park, Knights goalie Michael Hutchinson outdueled Bruins brother Adam Courchaine.
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Hutchinson, a Beantown third rounder, stopped 21 shots for his second Knights shutout. His first came in his opening game.
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Courchaine, signed as a free agent by Boston, faced the Knights for the first time this season. It wasn’t memorable.
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Down three early in the second, the Sting had a chance to get back in it. But they squandered a long five-on-three gift from two London delay of game calls and extended a scoreless power-play streak to 20 attempts.
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To boot, Jared Knight opened London’s three-goal first period with his 20th tally of the season and first while shorthanded.
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After red-hot Varone chipped in, Dominic DeSando made it 3-0 with 39 seconds left in the period. Playing his second game since recovering from hernia surgery last month, the 19-year-old Londoner scored for the first time since the Knights’s season-opening win against Windsor on Sept. 18.
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Before the game, the Sting honoured the 1979 Allan Cup champion Petrolia Squires, the never-say-die guys from the small town who dominated senior hockey for a couple of years.
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But after they left the ice, it went downhill from there for the home side.

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