Brad Bonello began his OHL career with a bang.
He'd like to end it that way, too.
The overage 67's centre broke into the league during the 2001-02 season and helped the Erie Otters win the OHL title.
He's the only member of the 67's to have played in a Memorial Cup.
And because of that, many of his current teammates in Ottawa are looking to him for advice on how to approach the upcoming league final against London and the Memorial Cup later in the month.
"They ask me what it's going to be like, and through the last two rounds, I've been saying, 'You know what? If we get to the Memorial Cup, it's going to be the best experience of your life. You'll never forget it,'" Bonello said prior to practice yesterday at the Civic Centre.
"It still sticks with me to this day of how everything was run so well and how everyone was treated. It was such a good feeling to be centre stage, with everybody in Canada watching you.
"I'm happy that I get to go back, and my teammates get to go and experience it for the first time, and maybe their last time."
Bonello spent some time on Erie's top line during his rookie year, and scored a goal during the round-robin of the 2002 Memorial Cup in Guelph against the QMJHL-champion Victoriaville Tigres.
But the end came for the Otters in the semi-final against the Tigres, who scored with five seconds left in regulation to tie the game and then won it in overtime.
"We worked so hard as a team and we grew very close to each other," said Bonello. "It was basically misfortune, a blocked shot and they went down on a breakaway.
"You just felt bad for everybody on the team because we felt that we were capable of at least going into the final and probably winning it.
"But that's what happens in one-game tournaments. You have one lapse, and you can lose and then you're out."
EVERY BIT COUNTS
Just a handful of 67's -- Bonello, Will Colbert, Mark Mancari, Jeremy Akeson and Bryan Bickell --have played in an OHL final.
It's not a lot of experience, but Ottawa coach Brian Kilrea said every bit counts, especially the time Bonello spent at the Memorial Cup.
"You always rely on experience, and that's going to help," said Kilrea. "He's been there and he knows the rules of conduct. He knows what it takes, what you have to do, and the sacrifices you have to make. It's just a lot of little things that he can help them with."
IN THE CREASE: Ottawa LW Jeremy Akeson missed practice during the last two days because of a cold, but is expected to be okay for the first game of the final on Friday at the John Labatt Centre in London ... The 67's will head to London by bus after practice tomorrow afternoon.