Ottawa can't get any respect

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:25 AM ET

Right now, the Ottawa 67's feel like nobody loves them.

At the start of the Memorial Cup, no one gave them much of a chance against the three league champions.

Now they're in tonight's semifinal, they know no one wants to see them wreck what most hockey fans, sponsors and Rogers Sportsnet executives see as tomorrow's dream Cup final: Corey Perry and the London Knights against Sidney Crosby and the Rimouski Oceanic.

The 67's are the only ones standing in the way of that matchup. They face Rimouski tonight with a chance to advance to tomorrow's game and create the first all-Ontario final since host Sault Ste. Marie beat Peterborough 4-2 for the title in 1993.

"You get tired of it," Ottawa forward and London native Mark Mancari said. "Everyone says we shouldn't be here. Then we win a game (against Kelowna) and everyone says we were lucky. Now, they don't want us to win so they can see Corey Perry and the Knights against Sidney Crosby.

"I don't know what it is. I don't know if it's because we're in London, but it's been like that the whole time. The games have been close. The London game was close until things got out of hand at the end and we took some penalties we thought we didn't deserve. But we're right there."

What will it take for the 67's to earn respect?

"We have to win the tournament. That's the only way," Ottawa captain Will Colbert said.

"We've talked about it. It's motivation for us. We were considered one of the top teams early in the season, but we've been inconsistent all year."

The 67's admit that sometimes they are their own worst enemies. Star goalie Danny Battochio, who made a tournament record 62 saves in the team's lone win against Kelowna, hurt his collarbone Wednesday after he was hit with a slapshot in practice.

Before the team's workout at the Western Fair Sports Centre yesterday, Ottawa coach Brian Kilrea told his players to keep their shots down, but Battochio was still nailed on the throat by forward Jamie VanderVeeken.

It was as good a time as any to get Battochio out of there, but he had to leave early anyway, to get his collarbone examined.

"It's just a precautionary thing," Kilrea said. "If he doesn't play, then I'll be right with him consoling him."

Kilrea knows his team is capable of pulling an upset tonight -- "We're not far off," he said -- and his players agree.

"We're going to give them a good game, even better than the last one," a 4-3 Oceanic win on Tuesday, Ottawa forward Chris Hulit said. "Rimouski has tremendous offensive skill with Sidney Crosby's line. They have a lot of firepower, but their weak link is on defence. They have some tremendously gifted, offensive guys back there, but some of them are small, so we have to get on them and force turnovers."

Once they get the puck deep, they have to find a way to beat Oceanic goalie Cedrick Desjardins. The animated goalie has almost 50 saves a game.


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