Magical season can't survive disappearing acts

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

If you want to find out what happened to the London Knights yesterday, listen to Mark Mancari and Danny Syvret.

"They're a very good team but they're going to have to realize they're going to have to work as hard as they did all year to beat us," said Ottawa 67's big winger Mancari.

"I think we gave up, in my mind," said Knights captain Syvret. "In the third period we came out with a lead and didn't put the effort in to hold them off. They came out and outcompeted us in the third period."

Analysis complete.

The end result was a 6-3 win for the 67's, evening the best-of-seven OHL final 1-1.

Most of the 9,090 in attendance at the John Labatt Centre were (insert one of the following: stunned, shocked, speechless, bewildered, catatonic) at the turn of events. They watched Friday as the 67's almost pulled Game 1 out and then watched yesterday as they blitzed the Knights with four third-period goals.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Wasn't this series simply a formality on the way to the Knights' coronation?

OK, it's early in the series and it takes four victories to win, but the 67's have put the Knights on notice. Anything less than a top-notch effort is not going to be enough.

That message is going to get across in one-way or another before the team takes to the ice romorrow in Game 3 in Ottawa, where the 67's have yet to lose in the playoffs. Syvret says the Knights already recognize that.

"No one said much after the game," he said. "We realized we didn't play very well. There's not much use going in there and yelling about it. We need to come back in Ottawa and outcompete them."

That's usually the way it works for the Knights. Not only can they kill a team with skill but they excel on special teams and winning the battles along the boards. But some of that was missing yesterday.

The Knights lost some of their composure and took needless penalties. They gave up three power-play goals and a short-handed score. For the second game in succession they gave up 43 shots. That's a lot and many of them were decent scoring chances.

One of the architects of the win was Mancari. The London native scored twice, his first goals in London in his junior career.

"The key goal was the shorthanded goal (3-3) and the guy that didn't get the assist on the play had an impact on it," said 67's coach Brian Kilrea. "Mark Mancari has locked the guy's stick so he couldn't get the puck and Brad Bonello swung at it and we got the tying goal."

Mancari has from the beginning of the series talked about how everyone has underestimated the 67's. Their performance in London gives them a lot of confidence.

"It's very heartening," Mancari said. "Sure, with our team we don't have a lot of big names but we work and work and work and that makes a difference. We have a lot of heart. We have nothing to lose out here. We're going to give it everything we have every shift, every period."

Saturday, the Mancaris had the 67's at their house for an old-fashioned Italian dinner.

"It was tremendous. We had gnocchi and regular pasta, fruit and everything," Mark said. "After dinner we hung out, played Play Station and went to the park to hit some balls. We had a great time."

The way his team played, Kilrea says he may want to import some of that Mancari chow up to Ottawa.

What London needs to import is the discipline and effort it demonstrated in its last three games against Kitchener in the Western final.


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