With one hand tied behind their backs, the Sudbury Wolves ended the longest undefeated streak in Canadian Hockey League history last night. They came into the John Labatt Centre with five players and their coach Mike Foligno suspended for a brawl the previous night in Windsor but had enough to lay a 5-2 beating on the London Knights before 9,096 fans.
The win stopped the Knights' record run at 31 games. They're now 29-1-2.
Mind you, the Knights were without Corey Perry and Danny Syvret, both with the Canadian team for the upcoming world junior championship, and Rob Schremp, with the U.S. team.
The Wolves erased a 2-0 deficit, with Sudbury's Bobby Chaumont scoring the winner with 5:41 remaining in the third period.
The Wolves, 16-14-3-2 (5-12-0-1 on the road), put it away with empty-net goals from Ryan McDonough and Rafal Martynowski.
At that point, the crowd rose and saluted the Knights for their record-breaking achievement.
"What the crowd did was great for the kids because at that point they were down," Knights coach Dale Hunter said.
"It's tough to achieve something like that, but the kids found a way to win for a long time. And when you win for that long, losing hurts a bit more."
Hunter said in a way the loss was a relief.
"There was a lot of pressure every game. It was 'The streak, the streak, the streak.' But it was good story to write. It was a good-news story."
The Knights set the CHL record Dec. 10 in a 0-0 tie with Guelph, running their string to 30 games that night.
Prior to last night, the Knights' last true loss, other than a preseason setback against Windsor, was to Guelph on April 26 in Game 7 of the OHL Western Conference final.
Rather than gloat, Wolves coach Foligno, who played junior with Hunter in Sudbury, praised the Knights for their achievement and what they did for hockey in general.
"This game doesn't take anything away from the London Knights and what they accomplished," Foligno said.
"We in this league are all proud of them, what Mark and Dale Hunter have built.
"All the leagues are fascinated and marvel at what they've done. Everybody's eyes were on London and a lot of eyes will stay on London because this is a team that people will remember.
"They've helped the OHL. People know the London Knights all over the world and because of them they now know our brand of hockey. There's a great sense of pride, not only in what they achieved on their own, but what they've done for hockey, especially without the NHL."
Foligno then made an interesting observation: "Everybody was cheering for them, except the team playing them that night."
The Knights dressing room was subdued, which was to be expected.
"We knew we would lose eventually, but these games were all like playoff games," said defenceman Marc Methot. "It's not a great feeling in here."
Left-winger Brandon Prust said it was the Knights' "worst game" of the year. "One out of 32 isn't bad, but it's still disappointing."
Knights rookie Steve Ferry opened the scoring at 12:25 of the first period. It was a gift goal as Nick Foligno, the coach's son, put the puck on Ferry's stick 10 feet inside the Sudbury blue-line.
It stayed 1-0 until 5:28 of the second period when Trevor Kell scored for London.
Martynowski then got one back for Sudbury at 10:02 of the second and Benoit Pouliot tied it at 8:02 of the third, beating Knights goalie Gerald Coleman with a soft shot.
Until then, Coleman had made some top-notch saves.
Wolves 5, Knights 2
Sudbury goals: Rafal Martynowski (2), Benoit Pouliot, Bobby Chaumont, Ryan McDonough
London goals: Steve Ferry, Trevor Kell
Next: The Knights play the Guelph Storm tonight at the John Labatt Centre. Game time has been changed to 6 p.m.