London calling

Bryan Bickell and the 67's will find themselves on the verge of a Memorial Cup berth if they finish...

Bryan Bickell and the 67's will find themselves on the verge of a Memorial Cup berth if they finish off the Petes tonight. (Ottawa Sun/Tony Caldwell)

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

Jeff Hunt's investments are certainly paying off.

On four occasions during these OHL playoffs, the 67's owner has chartered a plane for his team -- including two flights to Peterborough, which is just over there, for gawd sakes.

In doing so, Hunt has spent about $40,000 more than he would have by booking buses and hotel rooms like others in his position might do. But he's also spared his players about 30 hours of staring out windows along dark Ontario highways.

"I like flying and being able to stay at home, eat at your own house," said winger Jeremy Akeson. "I think a lot of the guys realize the extra money Huntsie is spending and they really appreciate it."

In return, the 67's have extended their post-season road beyond what many expected. And tonight, at what is already another sold-out Civic Centre, they can all but reach their final destination.

As the Clash would say, London's Calling. And the 67's are poised to answer.

A victory over the Petes this evening will give Ottawa a four-game sweep of the Eastern Conference final and a berth in the OHL championship series. If the Knights dispose of the Kitchener Rangers --as they should -- the 67's would also be securing themselves a spot in the Memorial Cup. London is hosting the four-team national championship, that has two entries reserved for clubs from the 'O'.

"I think it's going to be in the back of our minds ... one win from being in the Memorial Cup is pretty exciting for our team," said 67's sniper Chris Hulit. "But we have to stay focused. We have to keep doing what we've been doing."

Except for the final 10 minutes or so in Game 3. The 67's allowed a 4-0 lead to dwindle to one goal Monday before surviving a Petes flurry and escaping Peterborough with a 4-3 victory.

If there is a lesson to be learned for the 67's, it's what can happen when they take their foot off the Petes' throat -- something they'd be wise not to do tonight.

"We knew they had firepower to begin with," said captain Wil Colbert. "We took some unnecessary penalties and they took advantage. But I'm not sure they gained a lot of momentum from that (rally).

"To score three late goals and still lose, I think would be even more frustrating."

Coach Brian Kilrea remains as respectful of the Petes as he was at the outset of the series.

NO GUARANTEES

Just as he isn't counting Kitchener out of the Western Conference final, despite the fact the Knights are up 2-1 and have lost just once in the playoffs -- a defeat from which they responded with a five-goal victory their next outing.

"You take nothing for granted at this time of year," Kilrea said.

At yesterday's practice, he stood at centre ice in the middle of his players, delivering a 10-minute sermon with that theme, reminding them of their mistakes from the night before and that the fourth victory in a best-of-seven series is generally the toughest to get.

"I think it helps Peterborough that they got rewarded for their hard work," he said earlier in his office, harkening back to the Petes' three- goal outburst. "But you go game by game now."

Kilrea said the difference between the sometimes inconsistent play of his team during the regular season and now is that "everybody is a little more responsible, especially in their own end."

He also said he was surprised to be up 3-0 in the conference final, and that winning Game 1 in Peterborough looms as the key.

"It gave us the confidence that we could win in their rink," he said. "If we didn't get that one, who knows how the series would look now."

Said Hulit: "I don't think anyone ever thought we'd be up 3-0 in the conference final ... some people didn't expect us to get past Round 1. We've surprised everyone but the guys on this team, but we've earned everything we've got and we should enjoy the ride right now."

Why not? These days, the 67's are travelling in style.


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