Three down, 67's to go

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:17 PM ET

The last time Adam Dennis saw the Wayne Gretzky Trophy, he and his Guelph Storm teammates were receiving it to the sound of jeers at the John Labatt Centre.

Last night his team repeated, but this time it was cheers that rained down from the 9,090 fans.

"It's nicer having them on my side than against me," the London Knights goaltender said after stopping 34 shots in a 6-0 victory over the Kitchener Rangers.

Dennis even stopped a penalty shot in the first period to earn his second playoff shutout.

The win gave the Knights the OHL Western Conference championship -- a title denied the Knights by Dennis and the Storm last season -- with a 4-1 series win.

The Knights now meet the Eastern Conference champion Ottawa 67's in the league final.

Both teams are also going to the Memorial Cup during May 21-29 at the JLC.

The 67's received their automatic berth when the final buzzer sounded last night.

The Knights are already in as host team.

It is only the third time in the Knights' 40-year history that they are appearing in the OHL final. They lost to the 67's in six games in 1977, then to Belleville in seven in 1999.

It's the 10th trip for the 67's, their third in the past five years under coach Brian Kilrea. They have won three times.

Knights captain Danny Syvret accepted the trophy from OHL commissioner David Branch, then, instead of taking the traditional victory lap, the players skated off the ice.

"It's a good accomplishment, but I don't think we can go around celebrating it like it's the Stanley Cup," said Syvret, who made the decision late in the game that he wouldn't do a victory lap. "There's still two more trophies in our mind that we need to get.

"It's a special moment for London, but I thought we should just skate off the ice. I didn't want to get a team picture or anything. Hopefully, in May we can do that.

"A few guys skated up to me late in the game and said, 'What are you going to do with it?' I said I was just going to pick it up and skate off the ice and they said, 'Good call.' "

The Knights persevered despite going without four regulars the final two games.

Defenceman Bryan Rodney is expected back next week from a knee injury, while forward Trevor Kell may be out until the Memorial Cup with a broken hand.

Forwards Brandon Prust and Josh Beaulieu are suspended. Prust is eligible to return for Game 2 against Ottawa, while Beaulieu has two games left.

Knights forward Dylan Hunter, who scored his 10th goal of the postseason, reiterated that the Knights want to go to the Cup as OHL champions.

"It's pride," he said. The Knights have lost only eight of 81 games (68 regular-season and 13 in the playoffs).

"We've been rated as the best team all year and we want to prove them right.

"But more than that, when you come into the OHL your dream is to play on a team that has a chance to win it. We now have that chance.

"We also don't want to be labelled as 'back door.' We want to go in the Memorial Cup the front door."

The Kelowna Rockets won the Cup last year as host team and there are some purists who consider it tainted any time the host wins.

"There's also no guarantee we'll win the Memorial Cup, Hunter said. "With the (record-setting) season we've had, it would be a blemish on the season if we didn't win anything."

The penalty shot was called at 14:47 of the first period, with the Knights ahead only by one, when Syvret covered the puck in the crease.

Syvret was preparing Dennis to face Rangers sniper Michael Richards, telling him what to expect, but Kitchener coach Peter DeBoer pulled a surprise and chose rookie Justin Azevedo to take the shot.

"Right away, Adam said, 'I got it, I got it,' " Syvret said.

"I trusted him. He's a great goaltender and when he says he's going to stop it, he's going to stop it."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 6, Rangers 0

The series: London beats Kitchener 4-1 in the best-of-seven OHL Western Conference final

London goals: Rob Schremp (2), Dylan Huntrer, Danny Syvret, Jordan Foreman, Kole Bryce

Shutout: Adam Dennis, 34 saves

Next: The Knights play the Ottawa 67's for the OHL championship, opening Friday at the John Labatt Centre.

- LAST NIGHT

QMJHL

Rimouski 5, Chicoutimi 1 (Rimouski wins 4-1)

WHL

Prince Albert at Brandon (Series tied 2-2)

Kelowna at Kootenay, 7 p.m. (Kelowna leads 3-1)

- TOMORROW

OHL

London at Kitchener, 7 p.m., if nec.

QMJHL

Rimouski at Chicoutimi, 4 p.m., if nec.

WHL

Kootenay at Kelowna, 8 p.m., is nec.

Brandon at Prince Albert, 8:30 p.m.

- AROUND THE OHL

The Ottawa 67's go into Peterborough tonight leading 2-0. The Petes' Kyle Raftis tossed the 67's a bone, so to speak, after Saturday's game when he picked up the puck and tossed it into the crowd at the Ottawa Civic Centre. The 67's were going to retrieve it as the pucks from each playoff win are taped to a goalie stick that hangs in their dressing room. It also would have been a keepsake for 67's goalie Danny Battochio, who stopped 37 shots for the 3-0 win, his first postseason shutout.

- AROUND THE WHL

Head coach Peter Anholt said his Prince Albert Raiders would split the first two games of their WHL Eastern Conference final with Brandon Wheat Kings. They did. After losing 4-2 on Friday, the Raiders beat the Wheat Kings 3-2 Saturday. "We came here for the split," said Anholt. "It would have been nice to get two but we didn't play well enough in Game 1 to do that." The Raiders will be at home for Games 3 and 4 tomorrow and Wednesday.

- AT THE JLC

Beginning tonight, full ballots will be available at Knights playoff games so you can help choose The London Free Press All-Time London Knights team. The team will be announced at the Memorial Cup opening banquet on May 20 at the London Convention Centre.

- DID YOU KNOW?

The Memorial Cup attendance record was set in 1999 when the host Ottawa 67's won the Cup, attracting 84,200 spectators for the eight-game series.


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