Underdogs have their day

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

LONDON -- Well, isn't that something.

The London Knights really are human under their black, green and gold uniforms.

For just the second time since the 2004-05 OHL season began, the Knights yesterday skated off the ice at the John Labatt Centre as a group of losers after falling apart in the third period of a 6-3 loss to the Ottawa 67's.

The 67's, who might have won Game 1 if not for some dumb penalties, have every right to be feeling good about themselves with the next two games of the OHL final at the Ottawa Civic Centre, starting tomorrow night with Game 3. They were down 3-2 going into the third but scored four times, beginning with a short-handed goal by Brad Bonello, in a span of five minutes, 17 seconds, before the period was seven minutes old.

"This is excellent for our confidence," said 67's winger and London native Mark Mancari, who scored two goals. "We have been doing things people didn't think we could do. A lot of people underestimated us coming in at the sixth spot (in the Eastern Conference) and everyone is always saying 'At least you have the bye to the Memorial Cup.' But all we are thinking about is the league championship."

Lukas Kaspar, Jeremy Akeson and Brad Staubitz also scored for Ottawa, which is 8-0 at home in the playoffs. Goalie Danny Battochio was great, making 42 saves.

David Bolland, Danny Syvret and Marc Methot, all in the second period, scored for London.

The Knights, ranked No. 1 in the Canadian Hockey League all season and Memorial Cup hosts later this month, lost just once on home ice, on Dec. 17 to the Sudbury Wolves. It also was the only time during the regular season the Knights blew a lead entering the final 20 minutes.

Though the Knights players talk about having stared down trouble previously, their only true test of mettle was in the Western Conference final, when they needed just five games to oust the Kitchener Rangers. The 67's, who were 44 points behind the Knights when the regular season ended, swept the Peterborough Petes in the Eastern Conference final and there is no doubt now as to whether they're pretenders.

"We're a good character team and we have faced adversity," Knights forward Danny Fritsche said. "People think we are going to blow by these guys, (but) it's the OHL championship. They know to beat us they are going to have to come out and play 150% every game."

Knights coach Dale Hunter whined earlier in the playoffs about opponents taking cheap shots at his star players, but there was the Knights' Jordan Foreman trying to goad European Jakub Petruzalek into a fight in the final minute by repeatedly jabbing him with his stick. Petruzalek ignored Foreman, who received a 10-minute misconduct. Overall, the Knights were undisciplined, going shorthanded 11 times. The 67's scored three times with a man advantage but London was 0-for-6 on power plays.


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