Ottawa goalie knows stress

Nick Van Herpt ties his skates with Ottawa 67's teammate Thomas Kiriakou taking a break. (Ottawa...

Nick Van Herpt ties his skates with Ottawa 67's teammate Thomas Kiriakou taking a break. (Ottawa Sun/Geoff Robins)

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

London Knights Corey Perry, Danny Syvret, Rob Schremp and Dan Fritsche all played in the world junior hockey championship.

The Knights' Adam Dennis, Daniel Girardi, Bryan Rodney and the Ottawa 67's Brad Bonello have all won an OHL title and played in the Memorial Cup.

Those situations are all pressure-cookers, but there's no greater pressure on someone than when that person's life is at stake.

Danny Battochio has been there.

The 67's goalie, one of the major reasons his team is in the OHL final against the Knights, downplays what he went through two years ago.

"What else would I have done?" Battochio said yesterday. "It was just something I had to take care of. I knew the thing would be resolved. It was just a matter of time."

The "something" he spoke about happened on Christmas Day, 2003.

Battochio, who had just turned 18 four days earlier, was home in Sudbury for the Christmas break.

He experienced convulsions early in the morning. Later, when he still wasn't feeling well, he went to hospital at the urging of an aunt, who is a nurse.

There it was discovered Battochio had suffered a seizure, caused by a malformed blood vessel (arteriovenous malformation) near his brain behind the left eye.

Blood wasn't flowing properly and an eight-hour operation was required to correct it.

He obviously missed the rest of his rookie season, after making the team as a walk-on, and there were doubts whether he would play again.

But the 67's stuck with him, showing true loyalty, and when training camp began eight months later, he still had his spot on the roster.

"Fortunately, Ottawa was willing to wait and took me back and gave me another chance, when I wouldn't have blamed them if they'd gone out and got someone else," Battochio said on the eve of Game 1 of championship series at the John Labatt Centre.

Brian Kilrea, in his 28th season coaching the 67's, said he's never seen anybody quite like his goalie.

"I don't know how many guys could battle through what he did and come back and be as strong and positive as he has been," Kilrea said.

"Nothing bothers him. He just goes out and works."

Kilrea said he always felt Battochio would pull through.

"He's taking a law enforcement course (at Algonquin College) and some days he's had to come and say he'd be late for practice the next day because of an exam," Kilrea said.

"He's very conscientious about school and that comes from being strong within. When he came here he was always a happy-go-lucky guy. When he had that problem, he just accepted it.

"We would call him (at home) and he always said he was fine. If ever there was a time when there was pain or anxiety, we never knew."

Battochio hasn't displayed any anxiety in the playoffs as the 67's made their improbable run to the final.

"This is something different," he said. "It's been a good thrill because a lot of people underestimate us.

"It started against Barrie (in the Eastern Conference quarter-finals) when we were the underdog. It was always somebody else who was supposed to win."

That's how it was in the conference final against Peterborough, with the Petes predicted to prevail. The 67's swept.

Even though it was four straight, Battochio said that series got them ready for the Knights.

"We made it look easy, but it wasn't," he said. "We had two overtimes, a one-goal game, then 3-0 (in the clincher).

"It just keeps getting tougher and tougher, but we're looking for more and more as we get closer to what our goal is."

There are suggestions the 67's won't win another game this season, that the Knights will sweep, then Ottawa will lose all three round-robin games in the Memorial Cup.

"We heard it before," Battochio said.

"We just go out there and prove these people wrong."

Kind of like what Battochio did two years ago.

KNIGHTWATCH

The OHL final: The London Knights and Ottawa 67's open the best-of-seven championship series tonight at the John Labatt Centre at 7:30 p.m.

Past history: The 67's have beaten the Knights all three times the two teams have met in the playoffs. Ottawa swept a third-round semifinal in 1998, beat the Knights 4-2 in the championship series in 1977 and won a first-round quarter-final 4-3 in 1972.

By the numbers: Knights right-winger Corey Perry leads playoff scoring with 29 points, including nine goals, in 13 games. He's also tops in Canadian Hockey League playoff scoring. Knights goalie Adam Dennis, who takes an 8-0 playoff record into tonight's start, leads the postseason with a 1.37 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. He has two shutouts.

Home sweet home: The Knights are 7-0 at the JLC in the playoffs. The 67's are 8-0 at the Ottawa Civic Centre.


Videos

Photos