The final countdown

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

The Ottawa 67's wore their barber-pole uniforms, but London Knights goalie Adam Dennis did the trimming.

Dennis made 41 saves last night, some bordering on the impossible, as the Knights beat the 67's 4-2 in the first game of the OHL championship series.

The sellout crowd of 9,090 at the John Labatt Centre was treated to some great goaltending as the 67's Danny Battochio faced 43 shots.

But last night's performance by Dennis is exactly why the Knights, looking for their first title, acquired him at the trade deadline.

The 20-year-old, passed over in the NHL draft, backstopped the Guelph Storm to an upset of the Knights in last year's Western Conference final.

Dennis, who's played the past four games with Gerald Coleman on the bench, is now 9-0 in the playoffs.

"I knew coming in that me and Gerald were going to battle with each other," he said. "We've competed with each other and pushed each other to the limit, and we're still pushing each other and supporting each other as well.

"It's a healthy competition, but we're friends as well so it's a great situation."

The spotlight is on Dennis, but he's not about to be blinded by its glare. "I'm just trying to play every game, one game at a time. The only thing you can control is when you're on the ice."

When Knights coach Dale Hunter was asked about his goalie's play, he was to the point. "That's what he did last year." Hunter replied.

Ottawa coach Brian Kilrea said going into the series the Knights' power play is the best he's seen in his 28 years in major junior. His team wasn't paying attention as the Knights' power play clicked three times and is now 30-for-110 in the postseason.

Corey Perry got it going with his 10th goal of the playoffs at 5:16 of the first period.

Perry would also draw two assists to lead Canadian Hockey League playoff scoring with 32 points in 14 games.

But more importantly, he drew back-to-back high-sticking calls on Ottawa players in the second period that led to Dan Fritsche's eighth goal of the playoffs at 6:22.

Kilrea was brusque when asked about the two calls that came after the 67's applied the lumber to Perry's head.

"I don't want to comment because then the next thing you know I'll be saying something and (commissioner) Dave Branch will be giving me a call," Kilrea said.

Perry saw it differently.

"They were well-deserved penalties. A cross-check in the face, you can't go blindside on that one," he said of the possibility of referee Mark Hicks ignoring the stickwork.

"I'm glad to see it was called. I've been in the league four years now and it's been going on for three years. They're always keying on me."

Kelly Thomson scored his second goal of the playoffs at 14:22 of the second period for a 3-0 lead.

The 67's power play made its presence felt in the third period as Brad Staubitz got Ottawa on the board at 6:34. Then, with the Knights down two skaters, Jakub Petruzalek scored at 8:11.

The Knights' power play struck again at 10:41, Rob Schremp getting his 10th goal of the postseason.

"They have a team that's very explosive offensively and if we give them the opportunities, they're going to bury it," Staubitz said. "We've got to play smart."

This series isn't expected to produce the nastiness seen in the London-Kitchener conference final.

But the 67's were greeted by the one-finger salute from one London fan when they rolled into town Thursday. That fan must have been signalling that the Knights have been ranked No. 1 in the CHL all season.

But the 67's bus is hard to miss. It's adorned by large photos of previous players hoisting championship trophies, including the Memorial Cup. The 67's have won three league titles and two Memorial Cups.

Both clubs are already in the Memorial Cup, May 21-29 at the John Labatt Centre, but both have said they want to go in the "front door" as OHL champions.

GAME GLANCE

Knights 4, 67's 2

The series: London leads Ottawa 1-0 in the best-of-seven OHL championship series

London goals: Corey Perry, Dan Fritsche, Kelly Thomson, Rob Schremp

Ottawa goals: Brad Staubitz, Jakub Petruzalek

Next: Game 2 is tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre at 2 p.m.


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