Knight's tale for Mancari

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

Gabe and Christine Mancari are preparing for a special homecoming for their son, Mark.

The 67's winger will be returning home to London when the club begins its best-of-seven OHL championship on Friday against the Knights.

"I'm so pumped up about this, it's ridiculous," said the 19-year-old Mancari.

"As soon as we clinched the Eastern championship, I was just rarin' to see when London would finish.

"It's a dream of mine. It's possibly my last year (in junior), so I'm going to London and giving it the best shot I have and hopefully win a league championship against them.

"Playing against the home town is something amazing, something that any guy in the league would want to do."

Already, the Mancari family is making plans to host many of the 67's players, coaches and support staff at the house, located about a five-minute drive from the John Labatt Centre.

Mancari said many of his teammates have been invited for dinner on Saturday when they'll get a chance to experience a traditional seven-course Italian meal.

HOME COOKING

The cooking is usually done by Mancari's mother, his maternal grandmother and Tina, his sister-in-law.

He's hoping that gnocchi pasta with a tomato sauce, his favourite, will be served as the main course.

Mancari grew up a Knights fan, and the family had season tickets every year when the club played at the old Ice House before moving to the new arena two years ago.

They even served as billets for Knights from out of town, so Mancari got to know many players while growing up.

"We got to know all the guys and the whole organization and we just became really close friends," he said.

Mancari isn't sure what type of reception he'll receive from the London fans, even though he lives there during the off-season.

"Everybody has been asking me lately if I'm going to get booed or if I'm going to get cheered. I don't really know what's going to happen, but I think a lot of the fans are going to be more excited about being in the series. They're really supportive of the team," he said.

"Their fans aren't really the type to be all over players. They're just a real happy-go-lucky audience and they just love the game of hockey and they love seeing their team win."

He figures London fans will think the 67's have no chance against the powerhouse Knights, who cruised through the OHL in dominating fashion this year.

"Everybody's really underestimating us. Everyone's saying we're a sixth-place team and they didn't expect us to be this far," he said.

"Everyone's expecting London to have their way with us, but I have complete faith in our team and our team knows what we're capable of and I think everyone's going to come out and have a really good run for us.

CITY IN A FRENZY

"Ottawa is known for having a good team, and with Killer being behind the bench, it's going to be really good series," said Mancari. "There's going to be a lot of media, there's going to be a lot of hype."

And he believes that frenzy will explode when the Memorial Cup begins on May 21 when the Knights host the Quebec champs.

"London is going to be a hockey town for a while, and hockey's going to be the talk of the town."

IN THE CREASE: The 67's had yesterday off and return to the ice for practice this afternoon at the Civic Centre.


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