Bolland leads Knights in OT

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:25 PM ET

SARNIA -- Make it 69 wins for the London Knights in the calendar year of 2004. The top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League closed out a wildly successful 365 days of puck-chasing with a 2-1 overtime victory over the Sarnia Sting before a season-high crowd of 4,736 last night at the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre.

London forward David Bolland, who was cut from Canada's world junior team two weeks ago, jammed a sweet backdoor pass from Dylan Hunter past Sting goalie Ryan Munce 1:09 into the extra session to improve the Knights to 31-2-2 on the season and a mind-boggling 69 victories since last Jan. 1.

"Sixty-nine wins, not too shabby," Hunter said. "We just want to keep it rolling in 2005. There's not going to be much New Year's festivities. Just back on the bus and back to business and get ready for the next one."

The Knights and Sting meet again back in London today at 2 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre -- the third straight season the two teams have played back-to-back games around the annual calendar change.

Sarnia head coach Shawn Camp hopes his Sting charges will finally be wary of the Knights' tendency to use the sneaky backdoor pass across the goal crease against them.

"They were doing it all game and before the overtime started, I told our defencemen to watch out for it and then they go and score on us with it," Camp said. "But for us, this was a big point (for the overtime loss) -- we need everything we can get to climb back into the playoff race."

Sarnia is currently 11-20-4-2 for ninth spot in the Western conference standings, ahead of only the last-place Saginaw Spirit.

"We're hoping 2005 is the start of something great for us. We're looking to turn the page on 2004," Camp said. "London just wants to keep rolling and it won't be easy (today at the JLC). Even without their top guys, London is a very good team, but we feel we have some momentum going into (today's) game.

"We had some chances early. We just don't have a lot of offence this year."

Bolland, who has 16 goals this year, said it was personally satisfying to pop the game-winner and get the Knights back on a winning note. London lost its last outing 3-0 in Owen Sound on Wednesday.

"We definitely wanted to close the year with a win," the 18-year-old Chicago Blackhawks draft pick said. "It was pretty tough to score the last while but we got a big one there. We had a lot of chances before that -- we just couldn't bury them."

Both teams struggled on the power play. That's to be expected from the Sting -- they are dead-last in the OHL with the man advantage. But London, which went 0-for-6, went into the game with the most potent power play in the league.

"It just wasn't going in," Hunter said. "But we worked hard and took the play to them in the second half, especially the third period."

The Knights played much of the game without forward Trevor Kell, who was sent to the showers 15 minutes into the first period after receiving a boarding major for a hit on Sarnia defenceman Trevor Solomon.

Solomon needed teammate assistance to leave the ice and is expected to be out of the lineup for a considerable amount of time.

Kell thought the hit was a good one, saying Solomon turned at the last moment, but Sting coach Shawn Camp called it "careless," adding a bit more fuel to the London-Sarnia rivalry.

London forward Drew Larman, who was traded to London from Sarnia in October, played his first game against his former team last night. The Knights beat the Sting 6-1 on Oct. 9 in their only other meeting this season but will play four more times, including today.

KNIGHTS 2, STING 1

- London goals: Brandon Prust, at 6:38 of the first period, and David Bolland, with the winner at 1:09 of overtime

- Sarnia goal: Scott Restoule at 4:43 of the first

- Up next: The teams meet again today at the John Labatt Centre at 2 p.m.


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