Hurtling toward history

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:36 AM ET

None of these players were born the only other year the London Knights and Ottawa 67's played in the OHL championship series.

It's safe to say none of these players were even a twinkle in their parents' eyes in 1977.

The earliest any of them were born was in 1984.

But this London team has an opportunity to right wrongs, or at least make amends, and help people forget a history that stands out above all others in the OHL -- for the wrong reason.

The Knights can right that.

It's the 40th anniversary of this franchise and there would be no better year to win its first championship. No other OHL team has gone that long without hoisting the J. Ross Robertson Cup.

The Knights go into tonight's game at the John Labatt Centre with a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

After the 67's handed the Knights their first home loss in 10 home playoff games in Game 2, the Knights went up to Ottawa and swept two from a team that was 8-0 at home in the postseason -- until then.

Ottawa finished light years -- 44 points -- behind London in the overall standings but the Knights know they have been in a series.

But going into tonight's game, the Knights are driven by the experience of last season.

A Game 7 loss to Guelph in the Western Conference final denied the Knights a sure trip to the Memorial Cup. The Storm went on to sweep Mississauga in the final.

"Knowing the feeling of last year, losing Game 7, I think we're ready to end it (tonight) so we can get some rest and get ready for the huge tournament," said Knights forward Rob Schremp, who scored twice in Thursday's 4-1 win.

That "huge tournament" is the Memorial Cup, where both teams are headed next week at the JLC.

The players want to wrap it up on home ice for a couple of reasons -- the chance for some rest before opening the Cup a week tonight against Sidney Crosby and the Rimouski Oceanic, and a chance to do it in front of the home crowd.

"It sucked losing Game 2, but look at it in a positive way," Schremp said of last Sunday's setback. "It gave us an opportunity to win at home."

Captain Danny Syvret expects the JLC to be charged up when the puck drops at 7 p.m.

"We'd obviously like to save ourselves a trip back to Ottawa and, hopefully, we can do it in front of our fans, who I'm sure are ready to go," Syvret said."There'll be a good atmosphere in the building."

Syvret said celebrating at home would be sweet.

"We owe it to our fans for the support they have given us and the way they treat us in the city. They treat us like professionals.

"To give them a championship, I don't think it can get any better, and maybe two weeks from now we'll be able to give them another championship. But we'll just take it one step at a time."

Staring the 67's in the face is the fact the Knights are virtually unbeatable on home ice. But the 67's stared that down in Game 2, handing the Knights only their second loss in 43 home games.

"We've got to forget about everything else," said 67's forward Mark Mancari, a Londoner who leads the playoffs with 13 goals.

"If we . . . look at the way we played in Game 2 (in London) and bring that game to the table, that gives us a really good chance to come back home."


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