East finalists aware of London bonus

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:42 AM ET

Mark Mancari would love nothing better than to be home in London next month -- still playing hockey, mind you.

The Ottawa 67's forward, who seems to score nothing but hat tricks in the playoffs, leads his team into the OHL Eastern Conference final against the Peterborough Petes. The series opens tomorrow night in Peterborough.

The 67's and Petes both know if the London Knights beat the Kitchener Rangers in the Western Conference final, whoever comes out of the East to play London in the league final will automatically be going to the Memorial Cup, no matter the outcome.

The Knights are in the Cup tournament as hosts.

When 67's captain Will Colbert was asked yesterday during a media conference call if it was in the back of the players' minds what a London win might mean, he replied:

"I don't even think it's in the back of our minds. It's right up there. We know it's a special opportunity to go to the Memorial Cup if London does prevail in the West."

Ottawa coach Brian Kilrea and Dick Todd, the Petes' coach, are also aware of the ramifications of their series should the Knights win, but neither is thinking ahead.

"You know what happens if. But I don't think we have to worry about what happens with London and Kitchener," Kilrea said. "We want to win our championship."

Todd said he has been around long enough to know "the first thing you do is win the game in front of you, and try not to anticipate what's going to happen with someone else. As soon as you start doing that, invariably it turns on you."

The 19-year-old Mancari leads the playoffs with nine goals in 12 games. He scored three breakaway goals in Game 6 of the conference semifinal clincher against Sudbury after a hat trick in the Game 6 clincher against Barrie in the first round.

"When he gets hot, he gets hot," Kilrea said. "He has been productive and we needed every goal he got.

"I don't know if it can continue. You don't score a lot of goals against Peterborough. But I hope he has a few goals left in his stick. I know he'll come out with a great attitude."

Peterborough won the season series 4-2-2, with all the Petes' wins coming at home.

Peterborough is back in the playoffs after missing last season, the first time in 27 years, an OHL record for consecutive postseason appearances. The team has done it with Todd back behind the bench after an 11-year absence while he went to the NHL.

Kilrea is the winningest coach in Canadian Hockey League history and being the OHL's oldest coaches -- Kilrea is 70, Todd 59 -- it was suggested this is a battle between two living legends.

"I'm just thankful we're both still living," said Todd, who credited the players for the Petes' turnaround.

"It certainly has been an exciting year for me, returning to OHL, and it's nice to get those accolades. But no coach can do it without the players on the roster who are capable of doing that.

"I walked into a situation here where we have 10 NHL-drafted players. There was a lot of things here for me to take over . . . and getting support from veterans was a key factor."

Todd and Kilrea have met in four previous playoff series, with the Petes winning all four. Todd has a 16-3 postseason record against Kilrea.


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