The London Knights will face the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the first round of the OHL playoffs next week.
The Windsor Spitfires clinched the seventh seed in the Western Conference with a 4-1 home win over the Sarnia Sting, which means the No. 1-ranked Knights will open their OHL championship and Memorial Cup defence against the No. 8-seeded 'Hounds.
The first two games of the best-of-seven series are slated for Thursday night and next Friday night at the John Labatt Centre.
It will mark only the second time London and the Soo have tangled in an OHL playoff series. The Knights beat the Greyhounds in six games in the first round in the 1987-88 season.
London, which wrapped up its third consecutive OHL regular-season title last week, finished 4-0 against Sault Ste. Marie this year. The Knights won 6-2 on Oct. 2 and 4-1 on Dec. 2 at the John Labatt Centre and 3-2 on Jan. 18 and 2-1 in a shootout on Feb. 18 in Sault Ste. Marie.
The January game in the Sault was rescheduled from Nov. 13, when the Knights were unable to cross the Mackinac Bridge because of high winds.
London goaltender Adam Dennis doesn't expect the Greyhounds, who won four of their last six games to clinch a playoff spot, to roll over for the Knights. The 'Hounds don't generate a lot of offence, but they are extremely difficult to beat on their home ice.
"The Soo has been playing well lately, they're a hard-working team and we know it's not going to be easy," Dennis said.
"Their goalie (London native Kyle Gajewski) is the kind of guy you have to worry about because he depends on his reflexes to make saves and if he's on, it'll be hard to score a lot of goals."
The 18-year-old Gajewski, a wiry five-foot-11, 160-pound puckstopper, has even played in more games this season than the workhorse Dennis. The Soo goalie has appeared in 62 of his team's 66 contests.
If London knocks out the Greyhounds, this series will mark the end of OHL hockey at the Sault Memorial Gardens. The city will unveil a brand new arena, now being constructed beside the old rink on Bay Street, in time for the 2006-07 season.
The old Gardens will be knocked down to make way for a parking lot for the new building.
LONDON VS. SAULT
(TENTATIVE DATES AND TIMES)
Thursday: At London, 7 p.m.
March 24: At London, 7:30 p.m.
March 26: At Sault Ste. Marie, 7:30
March 27: At Sault Ste. Marie, 7 p.m.
x-March 30: At London, 7 p.m.
x-April 1: At Sault, 7:30 p.m.
x-April 3: At London, 7 p.m.
(x -- if necessary)