Bolland plays hero again

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

It's not every day a guy gets the opportunity to score a short-handed, game-winning goal in overtime.

In David Bolland's case, it's starting to happen once a week.

The skilled London forward scored three times -- including the dramatic breakaway winner for the second straight Sunday -- as the Knights became the first team to claim a third straight Hamilton Spectator Trophy as OHL regular-season champions with a 5-4 victory over the Erie Otters before 9,090 last night at the John Labatt Centre.

While Bolland, 19, usually leaves the showmanship to teammate Rob Schremp, he celebrated London's 13th straight win by skating onto the ice for his first-star call wearing the familiar sombrero given to each Knight who records a hat trick.

"Jim (Knights assistant GM Jim McKellar) passed it to me, so I put it on and went out there -- I've done it before," Bolland said with a grin. "It was just like in Kingston last Sunday. We were short-handed and (in the 5-4 win over the Frontenacs) I told (Dylan Hunter) to just flip up the puck to me. This time, it was (Scott Aarssen) and he got it up there and I got the breakaway again. I just tried to shoot it because I usually go for the deke and it worked out this time."

The Mimico native now has an OHL-best 56 goals and has a chance to be the first Knight to reach 60 since Dave Lowry in 1984-85. But with both the overall league and Western Conference titles sewn up, there's a good chance Bolland won't be playing in all three of London's remaining regular-season games this coming weekend.

"If I'm in there, sure I'll go for 60," he said. "But it has been a long season for me. As a team, we want to get to 50 wins for the third straight year. That's important to us but we also want to be able to get ready for the playoffs."

Last night, the Knights cracked the 100-point plateau for the third straight season and need one more victory in their final three games to become the second Canadian Hockey League team with three straight 50-win seasons.

The Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers achieved the milestone from 1989-92.

"In the OHL, teams are always turning over there best players so to be on top three years in a row is something special," London captain Dylan Hunter said. "It shows what kind of character we have in this room. No one expected us to do it again this year but we did it."

The London players had watched Peterborough's loss to Brampton on TV and knew a victory last night would mean home-ice advantage throughout the OHL playoffs. The Knights already know they will face either the Windsor Spitfires, who come to London Friday night, or the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the first round.

"All the wins don't mean anything if we don't take advantage of it and have a long playoff run," said goalie Adam Dennis. "We want to go out with a bang. Our goal from the start of the season was to get back to the Memorial Cup and now that we won the West and the league, we can start looking ahead to playoffs."

Dennis' 44th win of the season gave him 100 for his OHL career, a milestone he had his eye on since the start of the season. Although OHL records are spotty in this category, his wins total is believed to be a record.

"There's been a lot of good goalies in this league, but I've had the good fortune to play on three great teams," Dennis said. "Not many guys get the opportunity to win that many games in their career."

The celebration looked in doubt as the Knights surrendered two short-handed goals -- one late in the second, the other early in the third-- on the same hooking penalty to Ryan O'Marra, who then jumped out of the box and capitalized on another thoughtless turnover to give the Otters a shocking 4-3 lead.

Erie, which was eliminated from playoff contention Friday, picked a funny time to start playing its most impressive hockey of the season. The Otters beat Kitchener at home on Saturday.

"When you face a team not in the playoffs, you think they might just mail it in but they didn't," Bolland said. "We were in a slump for two periods and when they scored (to go up early in the third), it was a wakeup call and we got back into it."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 5, Otters 4 (OT)

London goals: David Bolland (3), Rob Schremp, Dylan Hunter

Erie goals: Adam Berti (2), Sean O'Connor, Ryan O'Marra

Next: London plays the Windsor Spitfires Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.


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