Attack no surprise to Knights' stars

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

This has the makings of being one heck of a hockey series.

With most London Knights fans predicting a Kitchener Rangers-Knights showdown, no one paid much attention to the Owen Sound Attack.

That is until the Attack easily defeated the Rangers to move into the OHL Western Conference semifinal series against the Knights beginning tomorrow night in London.

Now the question being asked is: Just how good are the Attack?

Ask Knights' Rob Schremp. But just don't try to sell him on the Attack being a Cinderella team.

"Cinderella?" he laughed. "Who do you think they are? George Mason? No way they're George Mason. They've been good all year. They've never sucked."

Schremp is referring to the George Mason Patriots, who made an amazing run to the NCAA men's basketball semifinals.

"I'm not surprised at all they are here," Dylan Hunter said. "They've given us a hard time all year. They're good. They have a 50-goal scorer. They have Bobby Ryan. They have a good goalie, good D. People have underestimated them."

That seems to be the consensus.

"They had injuries early on and have gotten better," Knights coach Dale Hunter said. "They lost (defenceman) Andrej Sekera and he's a key part of that team. Right now, they are playing very well. They are clicking on all cylinders."

Ryan is the No. 2 player drafted in the NHL last year. Mike Angelidis scored 53 goals and goaltender Mike Ouzas was the goaltender-of-the-year last year in the OHL and had an outstanding series against Kitchener. Throw in defenceman Bob Sanguinetti and the Attack have some real horses.

In fact, they ride those horses like the Knights ride their five or six top guns. It's one of the things that makes this series so interesting.

If all those horses come to play, this series will provide as much, if not better, entertainment than a Kitchener series would have. There's a lot of talent on the ice and playing in the Bayshore Community Centre is always interesting.

"They should take that barn, just like Windsor's and blow it up," said Schremp. "The buildings suck."

The Attack like it. The cozy confines of the Bayshore will fit into the Attack's plan of attack, quite well.

"They play physical," said Dylan Hunter. "They know our weaknesses. They want to hit us up front and hit our main guys. They rely on the power play, just like us."

This is a series that was a year late in happening. The Attack and Knights were supposed to do battle last year for the Western Conference championship. But Kitchener spoiled that party.

"(Owen Sound) beat a very good team this year," Dale Hunter said. "(Coach) Mike Stothers has done a good job with them."

Stothers needed success, considering the way his team crashed and burned last year. He managed to get them through some struggles this year.

Dale Hunter, who won the OHL coach of the year award the last two years, did his best job of coaching this year. He won an OHL regular season championship with a team that graduated 10 players and was left with a patchwork defence.

Hunter's ability to move out of the comfort zone of coaching, stray from the coaching book to try innovative things, helped this team return to the top of the league standings.

It would have come as a surprise if he hadn't won the award for a third year in succession.

Surprise!

Hunter finished second in the voting, announced yesterday, to Guelph Storm coach Dave Barr. Barr received 65 points in the voting process, followed by Hunter with 44 and Dick Todd of the Peterborough Petes with 27.

"You always want to win," said Hunter. "But a lot of other guys did a good job coaching, too."

Dylan Hunter thinks this team will need all of its experience when the puck drops.

"I expect it to be tight," said Hunter. "One of those old-fashioned, hitting, rough, rowdy series. Not a fighting type series, but just rowdy."


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