In the end season belonged to Knights, Perry

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

The much-anticipated rematch became a mismatch.

As a result, the city that has suffered hockey envy for 40 years has nothing to be envious of any longer.

The London Knights are Memorial Cup champions.

They defeated the Rimouski Oceanic 4-0 yesterday at the John Labatt Centre in what was their first time on hockey's national stage.

The spotlight, which was supposed to be reserved for phenom Sidney Crosby of the Oceanic was taken by Corey Perry of the Knights. He added the tournament's most valuable player award to list of hardware he's already accumulated this season.

When all the writing, analysis and commentary are done, the bottom line to the 2004-2005 junior hockey season will be remembered as the year of the London Knights and the year of Corey Perry.

Perry was the dominant player in this tournament, wielding his stick like a magic wand. He wound up with one assist in the final game.

Meanwhile, Crosby, who won the tournament scoring championship with 11 points, spent most of the final wearing Brandon Prust on his back. Prust had help from Trevor Kell and Dylan Hunter.

Crosby also won the scrum count. Every time he appeared for interviews, dozens of camera crews and reporters crowded around him. Perry often had but three or four.

"I'm glad," Perry said in the bedlam of the Knights dressing room. "I didn't want any more pressure on me. I just wanted to play my game and make sure we won. We did. It isn't easy being under that kind of pressure."

To Crosby's credit, he handled the pressure and the loss with great dignity and class. There will be some who will be disappointed by his performance. They forget Crosby is not yet 18, while Perry is 20. Prust, whose job it was to check Crosby, is 21.

"It's a tough thing when you are 17 years old and have the national exposure he has," Perry said.

"I can't explain how difficult it is for him. He's a tremendous player. He's going to be the next great one.

"He will learn from this experience. He's a great kid, down to earth. He's the real deal."

The Knights domination of the Crosby line allowed the Oceanic almost no chance of winning in the final.

It was symbolic that midway through the second period Crosby took a penalty when he had to pull down Prust to prevent him from breaking in alone on the Oceanic net. Prust was assigned to chase Crosby, but in the end, it was Crosby who needed to do the chasing.

"They did a good job checking us," Crosby said. "They knew what we could do with our speed and they just slowed us right down. You have to give them credit. They did a good job."

It was an emotionally and physically spent Crosby who appeared after the game.

"I'm tired and disappointed, It's been a long season," Crosby said of his last junior game.

The Oceanic had no solution for Perry.

It seemed from that moment on, the game was never in doubt, the national stage belonged to London and Perry.

"I think the national stage belongs to us," said Perry, who also played his final junior game. "It's an unbelievable feeling when you win the Memorial Cup.

"It's a time you will never forget. When you move on, you'll remember all 26 people in this room. Honestly, it's a dream come true."

What was he thinking as the clock wound down and the Knights led 4-0.

"It was such a blur, the whole game," Perry said. "The fans were unbelievable. Everything that's happened has happened for a reason. I don't know what it is, but it happened for a reason. This entire year was like a dream."

It's left to Oceanic coach Doris Labonte to summarize the final game and perhaps the Knights season.

"In my opinion, the best team has won," he said. "Trying to beat them was kind of a mission impossible. We were on the road for 11 days. We were playing them in their own building.

"Their machine was almost perfect."

As close to perfect as junior hockey has ever seen.


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