Knights on to final

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

The London Knights are going to major junior hockey's big dance.

The Knights, celebrating their 40th year in the Ontario Hockey League, put themselves in Sunday's Memorial Cup championship game with a stirring 5-2 victory over the Ottawa 67's last night before 8,905 frolicking fans at the John Labatt Centre.

"I thought about this last night that if we do win this one game, we'll be in the final, and that is a good feeling," said the Knights' Corey Perry, who took over the tournament scoring lead last night from Rimouski's Sidney Crosby with a goal and an assist, giving him four goals and six points.

"When you can say it's down to one game and no other London Knights team has been in this tournament, let alone going to the final on Sunday at 4:30, it hasn't sunk in yet . . . but after Sunday, hopefully it's going to be a great feeling."

The Knights completed the round-robin with a perfect 3-0 record to earn the bye. They've been aware for some time that 11 of the past 12 teams with that bye have won the championship.

The Knights won the OHL crown for only the first time in franchise history this season, and, after their record-smashing regular season, a Memorial Cup title would be the perfect finish.

It's all they have talked about since reporting to training camp nine months ago. Now, 89 games later, No. 90 will be the one they and their fans remember for a lifetime.

"Our fans have treated us like rock stars," captain Danny Syvret said. "We've grown to love our fans and they've grown to love us. Hopefully, we can give them back a Memorial Cup championship.

"You're only 19 and there's a lot of pressure on you, but it's cool walking around a city and having people know who you are."

The Knights won't know their dance partner until tomorrow night when the 67's, here as the OHL representative after losing to the Knights in the league final, play the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Rimouski Oceanic in the semifinal.

"We get to heal some bumps and bruises and get rested, and hopefully on Saturday it goes into triple overtime and goes on and on," Perry said, breaking into a big smile.

"It will be in our favour anyways."

As expected, Knights coach Dale Hunter went with goalie Gerald Coleman last night after Adam Dennis played the first two games.

Coleman hadn't played in 12 days, but he was in net when the Knights clinched the OHL title in Game 5 at the JLC after replacing Dennis during Game 3 in Ottawa.

Coleman had an OHL record 1.70 goals-against average, a 32-2-2 record and eight shutouts, which tied him for second on the league's all-time list.

Coleman said last night he was told the starter for the final will be named once Sunday's opponent is known.

If it's Rimouski, it will probably be Dennis. Ottawa would probably see Coleman.

After a London goal by David Bolland was waved off for a high stick, the 67's scored a cheapie a minute and a half later at 9:48, the third time the Knights have given up the first goal.

Coleman stopped a shot by Chris Hulit, but the puck struck Syvret's skate and went in.

The Knights power play, struggling at 1-for-14 in the first two games, struck pay dirt three times last night.

The first was at 11:46 of the opening period with defenceman Dan Girardi scoring.

The Knights busted it open with three unanswered goals in the second period, Dylan Hunter at 4:56, Syvret at 11:52 and Perry with another power-play goal at 17:13.

The Knights went into the third period with two players in the penalty box and the 67's made quick work of the situation as London native Mark Mancari scored 53 seconds in.

Danny Fritsche completed the scoring at 18:10 with the Knights' third power-play marker.

"We'll skate (today) and hope that we can find some players who will play better than they did tonight," said 67's coach Brian Kilrea.

"I'm a little disappointed we didn't play a little better game so we could walk out with a little bit more confidence should we lose, which we did.

"Put it this way, if they (the Oceanic) were watching us tonight, they would have the advantage."


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