Troops eager to face Knights

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Ryan Oulahen and the Brampton Battalion have lost a measly five games on home ice this season but their resolve at the Brampton Centre has met no test greater than the one that will present itself tomorrow night.

The London Knights, owners of a 48-4-2 record and the talk of junior hockey in Canada this season, ride into the Bunker for their lone visit of the regular season.

"Everybody in the dressing room is excited," Oulahen, the Battalion captain, said. "We're confident we can give them a run and maybe take two points. We'll have the same routine. It doesn't change because it's the London Knights."

Nor should it. The Knights are not unbeatable, and the Battalion, at 19-5-3, has the best home record in the Eastern Conference. London does have a road record of 23-3 and with its next victory on enemy ice will equal the Ontario Hockey League record, set by the Ottawa 67's in 1998-99 and tied by the Guelph Storm last season.

The Knights have been the visitors for record crowds for games in Barrie, Saginaw and Owen Sound this season, and the Battalion is crossing its fingers for another milestone tomorrow night. The club is expecting in excess of 4,500 fans, which would break the franchise mark of 4,477.

No matter how many people are watching, Battalion coach Stan Butler figures the first five minutes or so are crucial.

"A lot depends on what happens early on because you can either get some confidence or lose it quickly," Butler said. "We realize that when you play a team as good as they are, they're capable of embarrassing you. I've spent seven years in Brampton, and had two in Oshawa, and without a doubt (the Knights)are the best team Ihave seen."

ICEDOGS BEAT RANGERS

Tom Zanoski's power-play goal 4:11 into the third period proved to be the difference as the Mississauga IceDogs edged the Kitchener Rangers 4-3 in the lone OHL game last night.

Patrick O'Sullivan had a shorthanded goal and an assist for Mississauga, which moved to within two points of Brampton for first place in the Central Division. Jesse Jenish and Vladimir Svacina also scored for the IceDogs.

David Clarkson scored a pair of goals for Kitchener, with Jean-Michel Rizk adding the other goal.

KELLY, SPITFIRES SPLIT

An emotional Mike Kelly and the Windsor Spitfires parted ways yesterday, with Kelly saying the decision to leave the team was "heart-wrenching." Kelly, who was with Windsor since 1999, was the Spits' general manager. He gave way as coach to Dave Prpich in December.

"I'm accustomed to having autonomy to do my job, but (owner/president) Steve (Riolo) is hands-on and that is his right," Kelly said. "Perhaps our values clashed a bit, but it was a very amicable split. I consider him a good friend."

BIG SNAKE BACK

Overage forward Robin Big Snake will re-join the Owen Sound Attack on Sunday. He had been sent home to Alberta for violating curfew for the second time this season.


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