Talbot soldiers on

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

This is the time of the unknown soldier. When hockey teams live to play another day at this time of year, when hopes for glory spring forth like crocuses, they are nurtured by hands that are dirty.

Julian Talbot's hands are dirty.

Of course the 67's can thank the goaltending of Danny Battochio for their fifth conference title in nine years.

He has been their most valuable player.

Of course they can thank the goals by Chris Hulit and Mark Mancari, Brad Bonello's surliness, the intimidating presence of Brad Staubitz.

But listening to 67's coach and GM Brian Kilrea -- always a wise thing to do -- you come to realize that the 67's would not be here without the sometimes subtle, but no less important, contributions of Talbot.

The 67's await the outcome of the London Knights-Kitchener Rangers Western Conference final knowing at the very most they have but one more series to win to advance to another Memorial Cup.

If the Knights, hosts of the Cup, win the series tonight or in the next few days, the 67's ticket to London will be punched.

Talbot and the rest of the 67's went through a short practice yesterday at the Civic Centre and afterward, Kilrea explained why the 20-year-old figures so prominently in the 67's scheme of things.

"He's our unknown soldier," said Kilrea. "I just think he's underrated.

"From our standpoint, and rightly so, Danny Battochio is the story of the series (against Peterborough), of all three series. We all know Mancari's got bunches of goals, Bonello's got the points along with him and Hulit's been dangerous.

"But the guy who sort of plays in the shadows is Talbot. He doesn't score a lot of goals, but he's been hot throughout. He's not a heavy goal scorer, but take a look at his team value ... the assists he gets. The killing of the penalties. The faceoffs. He's always out against the best line.

"Defensively, if I'm in the last minute, he's on the ice. He's just one of those guys who plays his own end so well. I know within the team we know his value, I just don't know if everybody else does."

HUGE CONTRIBUTIONS

Talbot, along with linemates Hulit and 16-year-old Jamie McGinn (who scored the OT winner Wednesday night to sweep the Petes), have shut down the opposition's top units (anybody seen Peterborough's Liam Reddox?) and contributed huge scores in each series.

Not that Talbot's been a slouch in the scoring department, either. His two assists Wednesday night gave him 17 points in 16 playoff games, two off Hulit's lead.

"I don't know what it is. As soon as Hulit got here, we've been clicking," said Talbot. "Once we got rid of Brodie Todd, Jamie McGinn stepped up and since he came back from the under-17 team, he's been playing well. He works real hard and he's been getting the job done.

"We're just laughing out there and having fun."

Talbot has a chance to do what his brother, Joey, did in 1999 -- win a Memorial Cup with the 67's.

Julian Talbot is a quiet kid, but he made himself heard Wednesday night. After the Petes scored to tie the game after the 67's had led 2-0, Kilrea heard Talbot's voice on the bench.

"He's the one who kept going, 'C'mon guys, we've got to pick up the pace, we've got to pick up the pace.' He got vocal and when Julian gets vocal, everybody listens."

"He's a quiet leader, but he's a leader for sure," said 67's captain Will Colbert. "He hates hearing it, but he's following in his brother's footsteps, who won at every level. He knows. He watched Joe and knows what it takes. He's a leader and a winner, for sure."

Kilrea sees a different game than most of us. He sees Talbot make the little, less noticeable reads and adjustments which, because they have been done correctly, result in fewer bad things happening. Nothing happens, few might notice.

Maybe it's covering for a pinching defenceman in the offensive zone or dropping down low in the slot to help out like a third defenceman in front of his own net.

"Everything he does is just instinct to win. Nothing's personal," said Kilrea. "He's not looking for the breakaway goal. He's just looking to win."

Those are the type of guys who usually do.


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