Knights respond to challenge

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

The challenge was sounded and answered . . . yet again.

Say what you will about the London Knights, but it's about time the issue of how they will respond to adversity is put to rest.

The Knights may not win the Ontario Hockey League title and they may not win the Memorial Cup. But if they don't it won't be because they quit or couldn't handle pressure. It will be because someone else played better than they did.

Mind you, the Knights are in a far better position to win the OHL championship today, after having won a pressure-filled Game 3 against the Ottawa 67's 5-4 last night. It gave them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven final.

And they did it after the 67's had thrown down the gauntlet, ripping the Knights 6-3 at the John Labatt Centre in Game 2 and setting the nation's capital abuzz with the thought of an upset.

Roasted Knight was the dinner of the day on the airwaves. SkateGate was the news with the Knights pilloried for telling on 67's goaltender Danny Battochio for wearing an illegal skate blade the league made him remove.

"This is what they've resorted to. They're desperate," intoned the radioheads. "It was a classless act. The 67's are into the Knights heads. The 67's would never do anything like that," etc, etc, etc.

The 67's had given the Knights plenty to chew on anyway. Confidence is a big deal in this game. If the removal of Battochio's blade hurts his confidence, so be it.

If the 67's believed everything they were reading before the series began, they would not have shown up to play it.

If the Knights had listened to how shaken they were supposed to be after Game 2, they probably wouldn't have shown up for Game 3 either.

The Knights got down 1-0 early, then took two two-goal leads and blew those.

Danny Syvret's slapshot goal in the third period gave London a 5-4 lead and the 67's were shut down from that point on.

It was a confident third period. Did the Knights play great hockey? Far from it.

"We played well in the last 20 minutes," said Syvret. "I don't think we were particularly good in the first 40. We'd score a goal and let up and let them back in the game. You can't just let them come back like that. You have to show some intensity."

What they did was work harder than in the previous game. Brandon Prust was especially effective.

Ottawa coach Brian Kilrea was blunt in his assessment of his team. "I don't think we worked as hard as we did (in Game 2). Or they worked harder. I thought we lost a lot of little battles, pucks along the boards. They were a little bit hungrier than we were and they were a little bit better."

Prust says all the bafflegab about the Knights being desperate, or that they've lost confidence, is just that.

"We're a pretty confident group," said Prust. We're not worried. We're not in a sense of urgency or anything like that. We know how we got here."

Even though the Knights were outshot 31-24, they were the better team. The previous two third periods belonged to Ottawa. It was a concern because the Knights had also been giving up a lot of scoring chances. Usually that's a sign of a team getting tired. But there weren't many good chances in the third period for the 67's last night. A lot of it had to do with the return of Bryan Rodney on defence and giving more work to Steve Ferry. Rodney didn't play as much as he usually does but it helped out Syvret, Marc Methot and Daniel Girardi.

"You need to have your legs in the third period, in the last five minutes," said Syvret. "And with them playing, it saves your ice time a little bit."

Now the concern shifts to the 67's. We'll see how they respond.


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