Goaltenders are centre stage

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

Goaltenders Adam Dennis and Danny Battochio have taken centre stage in the OHL championship series.

Each has grabbed the spotlight, Dennis in Game 1 when his London Knights won 4-2, then Battochio in Game 2 when his Ottawa 67's won 6-3.

But a snag was thrown into Battochio's game yesterday.

He has been using an extra skate blade called an overdrive blade. The blade, which attaches to the instep of a goalie's boot, aids a butterfly-style goaltender with lateral movement.

The NHL has banned its use and after the Knights spotted it and complained to the league, the OHL has told the 67's he must take it off.

Both goalies are unlikely heroes, considering Dennis was a 14th-round pick (273rd overall) by the Guelph Storm in 2001, and Battochio made the 67's as a walk-on last season.

Neither is drafted by the NHL.

"I think he would disagree, too, with 'unlikely,' " Dennis said yesterday after being told he's starting again tonight.

"We both worked hard to get here and we both want to win. We're not worrying about being drafted."

The unlikeliness of the two facing each other goes a step beyond. Dennis wouldn't be in the situation if he hadn't led the Storm to an upset over the Knights in last year's Western Conference final.

The Knights figured if they can't beat him, he might as well join them and they traded for Dennis on Jan. 10.

And Battochio might not have been here had it not been for the discovery of a malformed blood vessel near his brain after he a seizure on Christmas Day 2003.

He underwent an eight-hour operation that saved his life.

"Brain surgery, that's pretty serious, I guess," Battochio said, shrugging it off with the coolness expected of a goalie.

"I say my prayers every day that I'm healthy and that I stay healthy, and I'm just having a heck of a time."

Each has seen his share of shots; 43-43 in the first game and 45-43 for London in the second.

"A lot of the shots have been from the outside, but there have been a lot of scoring chances; 19-19 in Game 2 and 17-16 Game 1," said Knights goalie coach Dave Rook. "And that's unbelievable nowadays with the trap. They've got centre stage right now with two pretty offensive teams and I know Adam is making a strong case for himself."

Dennis relishes the opportunity to be in the spotlight.

"The spotlight is on you and you've got to take advantage," he said. "I wasn't too happy with my game (Sunday), but the one thing about the playoffs is you've got two days to recover and a chance for redemption."

Battochio looks forward to being back in the friendly confines of the Ottawa Civic Centre and its 9,862-pro 67's fans. The 67's are also 8-0 at home in the playoffs.

"All year long, both teams are used to playing with this amount of people watching us, so I don't think the crowd will play too big a factor," Battochio said after the first two games were at the John Labatt Centre, which holds 9,090.

"But again, it does (affect you) when you hear that many people cheering for the other team.

"When you have them trying to get under your skin, it's always in your head. You always know it's there."

There were a couple saves Dennis should have made in Game 2, but he was also the victim of some bad bounces.

Rook said that won't play in Dennis's head tonight.

"Adam is a confident kid. One thing about him is if he has a game where he struggles a bit, he always comes back with a top-notch game and we expect nothing less of him.

"He knows what he has to do."

KNIGHTWATCH

The series: The London Knights and Ottawa 67's are tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven OHL championship series.

On the road: Game 3 is tonight and Game 4 Thursday, both at 7 p.m at the Ottawa Civic Centre.

Sentence served: Knights centre Josh Beaulieu returns tonight after a five-game suspension. "It's been pretty physical because both teams are serious about winning. It's going to me my type of game," Beaulieu said.


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