Knights clinch conference

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

OWEN SOUND -- Once again, the London Knights are kings of the OHL's Western Conference.

London's 3-1 victory in Owen Sound last night, coupled with Kitchener's 4-2 loss in Erie, means the Knights will be the top seed in the conference playoffs for the third consecutive season.

"It's an awesome accomplishment," London forward David Bolland said. "Three straight years doesn't happen very often. When I came in four years ago, we didn't do much, but we came on the next year and last year was amazing. This year, everyone expected us to be middle of the pack so to be top seed again is special.

The Knights have come an awfully long way since being blasted in their second regular-season game 8-1 in Owen Sound on Sept. 24.

So has rookie goalie Steve Mason.

With Adam Dennis relaxing at home in London, the 17-year-old Oakville native kicked aside a career-best 54 shots to lead the Knights to their season-high 12th straight straight victory before 3,166 last night at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.

Mason ran his personal win streak to five games in beating Attack puckstopper Michael Ouzas, last year's OHL top goaltender while with Mississauga. The first-year goalie was particularly solid late in the second period and the early third with the Knights having to kill off an Owen Sound two-man advantage with one of their best special-team artists -- Bolland -- in the penalty box.

"The more shots you get, the better it is for a goalie," Mason said. "I found out a couple of days ago I was going to start and if it works out, I'm supposed to get two more this year."

London head coach Dale Hunter said he has to balance getting Dennis ready for the playoffs and giving Mason another chance to play. He wasn't sure if he would rest some of his star players next week.

Mason was backed up by Chris Wall, who played mostly with the Western Junior B Hockey League's London Nationals this season.

London needs to win two of its remaining four games to become the second Canadian Hockey League team to win 50 games in three consecutive seasons. The Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers. featuring Scott Niedermayer. performed the feat from 1989-92.

It was a rather low-scoring affair for a game featuring all three of the league's 50-goal men. Bolland continues to lead the OHL with 53 while Owen Sound's Mike Angelidis is stuck at 52 and the Knights' Rob Schremp remains at 51.

London jumped out to a 3-0 second-period lead thanks to two goals by Dylan Hunter and a single by Adam Perry. Despite being outshot 13-6 in the first period, Hunter scored the lone goal of the opening period to reach the 30-goal mark for the second straight season.

London returns home tonight to face the Erie Otters, who were eliminated from playoff contention in a 5-3 loss to Plymouth Friday night but helped out the Knights last night.

London ran its road win streak to 11 games and hasn't lost in an opposition rink since Jan. 26 in Windsor. The Knights already hold the OHL record consecutive road wins -- 15 by last year's Memorial Cup champs.

London forward Trevor Kell, who is playing defence while Frank Rediker recovers from his elbow injury, started and played well at the back end. The 19-year-old Thunder Bay native is adjusting to life on the blue line and even scoring a few points in the process.

"I think I'm a pretty good backward skater," he said. "The guys are bugging some of the other defencemen and saying that Keller's taking over on defence. But it's been all right. I've always said I'll do anything to help the team."

That's the kind of character the Chicago Blackhawks saw when they drafted Kell and he knows chipping in any way he can will be a big help to the Knights the rest of the season.

"Trevor is so good defensively and we like the decisions he's making back there," London assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said. "It's still an experiment, but he gives us that 20-year-old strength on the puck that some of the younger guys don't have yet."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 3, Attack 1

London goals: Dylan Hunter (2), Adam Perry,

Owen Sound goal: Jeff Kyrzakos

Next: London completes its three-games-in-three nights weekend tonight against the Erie Otters at 6 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.


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