Knights shooting for bye

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:24 PM ET

"Hockey's pretty simple boys. That's the way I like to keep it."

With those words, London Knights coach Dale Hunter summed up his strategy for what may be the second-most important game for the team this season.

A win tonight against the Ottawa 67's and the Knights get the bye to Sunday's Memorial Cup final.

It's been 40 years. Finally this franchise is now just that close.

The Knights were on the ice yesterday but nothing special was done at practice, just the usual light skating drills.

"You can fill their heads with too much," Hunter said.

"You've just got to play. You get them thinking too much on the ice (and) they're thinking instead of skating. They know what I like."

Hunter has to like what he sees -- one team with one goal, the way it has been since the start of the season.

Hunter's 20-year-old son Dylan was hanging around NHL dressing rooms from the time he was old enough to walk. He was 14 when his father hung up his skates after a 19-year career, so Dylan had lots of time to soak up the atmosphere.

Dylan remember when his father's Washington Capitals made it to the Stanley Cup final in 1998 against the Detroit Red Wings.

"When they made that trip to the Cup, you could tell how tight they were," he said. "Everyone hung out with each other. There wasn't any cliques."

Ironically, as this was being said, the Knights were all outside the John Labatt Centre buying Memorial Cup souvenirs.

"Once you have cliques, the team starts falling apart," he added.

"If you like each other, if you all hang out with each other, it just shows on the ice.

"Thankfully, everyone likes each other on this team."

Hunter said all the Knights checked their egos at the dressing room door a long time ago.

"It's about 'us,' not about 'you.' Ever since the beginning of the year, we've been a team and it's about the team and it's worked well for us.

"You can't have individuals. No one is that good. It's about the London Knights, and as individuals, we wouldn't be doing as well as we are if it wasn't about the team."

The 67's come into tonight's game knowing they are only one of two teams to have beaten London at the John Labatt Centre this season.

That was Game 2 of the OHL final.

"We can't let them think of that," Knights forward David Bolland said.

"We got to come out hard and take it to them right away. If we take it to them quick, we know they'll shut it down and it'll be our game. If we go hard, they won't come back at us."

Bolland said the Knights also have to contend with Danny Battochio, the star goaltender here so far.

Battachio took a shot off the left collarbone in practice yesterday and had to leave the ice. Later, while sporting an ice pack, he said that he would be all right to play tonight.

"Battochio will come in on a high and and we just have to get in his face and into his head," said Bolland. "But we know Ottawa is here to play. No one is just here for a free ride.

"We can't let down just because we beat them in the (OHL final)."

Defenceman Marc Methot said familiarity will only add to the evening after the Knights and Ottawa went five games in the league final.

"We know all their players, all their systems. We just have to come out and play them the way we did in the finals," Methot said.

"We just have to really work them hard and play sound defensively and I think we'll be fine. But they know us and I'm sure they have a few tricks up their sleeves."

An interesting statistic heading into tonight's game is that the Knights this season were 62-0 when they scored at least four goals -- 48-0 in the regular season, 12-0 in the OHL playoffs and 2-0 this week.

"That's a credit to all our players, especially our goaltending, just to be able to shut down the other team," Methot said. "I guess our goal now is to score four goals (tonight)."

There is also that little matter of the team that has gained the bye 11 of the past 12 years has won the Memorial Cup.

"It's huge to get that automatic bye and all those days off," Methot said. "A win (tonight) and we're safe to go. For (the defence), we've been logging a lot of minutes so far and we've really been lucky we really haven't had a problem with it.

"But we won't mind two days off."


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