Opener proves 67's won't be a pushover

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

There may be a feeling that all the London Knights have to do to win the OHL championship is show up. The Ottawa 67's are prepared to disprove that theory in a big way.

The Knights won Game 1 of their best-of-seven final last night but it wasn't easy, not by a long shot. They learned several valuable lessons.

They learned the 67's haven't paid attention to all the predictions and analysis that says they've got no chance. The Knights also learned that despite Ottawa's reputation as a skating, skilled team, it isn't averse to mixing it up physically.

And the most important -- that the 67's won't quit.

Down 3-0 in the third period, the Knights lost their composure and took penalties. In less than a minute and a half, it was 3-2 and the Knights were wondering what hit them.

But the one thing the 67's can't do is take penalties and they took a big one a short time later. Rob Schremp buried a power-play goal, the third of the game for London, and the Knights controlled the game from then on.

Take note, however. Both the Knights and the 67's had 43 shots on net. It's a big total on a London team that prides itself on defence.

"I think we played really hard," said Knights defenceman Marc Methot. "I think we have to get back a little more on defence and pay more attention."

The 67's surprised more than a few people with their play.

"I was surprised at how physical they were," said Methot, who seemed to be in the middle of every scrum.

"I skated by the bench early in the game and they said some things to me and got me going a little bit. I was pumped anyway about the series because it's my hometown.

"I was tough to keep your composure out there. I took some penalties. There were some weird calls against me but I'll try and keep it cooler next time."

Are the Knights reading the predictions, prognostications and analysis about how they are overwhelming favourites?

"We hear that every day from people and family," said Methot. "With the success we had this season, that was to be expected, but we try to zone that out. We play our own game and just work hard."

It's a good attitude to take because if Game 1 is any indication, London will have to work against the 67's.

"Definitely, we came here to make it a series," said Ottawa's Brad Staubitz. "We came to make a series out of it and battle hard and show we're a competitive team . . ."

The Knights expected they would face a team that could put the puck in the net and could skate, but would have its troubles on defence.

That's exactly what they got.

"They have three balanced lines that can really skate," said Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu. "So it's important that our defence stay between the dots and just keep them to the outside."

After the choppy hockey the Knights-Kitchener Rangers series provided, this was good hockey to watch. There was enough hitting to keep people happy and the occasional dirty deed to leave fans howling.

There may be a sense that if the 67's are going to win games, they'll have to do it early. The Knights will only get stronger as the series progresses with the return of players from injury and suspension.

While some may take the 67's lightly, the Knight aren't . They remember all too well last year when they lost the conference final.

"We got so close last year, this year it feels different," said London's Dylan Hunter.

"Last year at this time, we were packing our gear up. We didn't like that feeling. We don't want to do that again."


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