Knights' Dennis top netminder

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:22 AM ET

Adam Dennis has captured a Memorial Cup title, backstopped two straight league playoff championship teams and had more career victories than any other OHL goalie.

But the 21-year-old London Knights goaltender never really felt he was given the nod as a No. 1 netminder until this season -- and the Toronto native took full advantage with a remarkable final junior campaign to earn the OHL's goalie of the year honours yesterday.

"I've been fortunate to play on great teams the past three years, but maybe this was the most (personally rewarding)," Dennis said. "Last year, we had two good goalies and Gerald (Coleman) and we really pushed each other. Two years ago in Guelph, it was me and Danny Taylor -- two young goalies battling for the job -- and I never really felt it was mine until the second half.

"Coming back here for a full season and knowing I was going to be the No. 1 guy meant a lot. It makes a difference."

This year, the Buffalo Sabres draft pick played in 57 games -- including a stretch of 45 straight -- and won 44 times to surpass former Kitchener Rangers goalie Wendell Young's 23-year-old single-season record. He posted a 2.82 goals-against average and .915 save percentage -- incredible numbers considering London lost its top four defenceman -- Danny Syvret, Bryan Rodney, Marc Methot and Dan Girardi -- to graduation this year.

"It's a great personal accolade, but the goaltender of the year award won't mean as much without a long playoff run," Dennis said. "The award might give me a little more recognition, but of all the guys who got it, the most important thing was they were all winners. That's always the goal."

Dennis beat out old Guelph teammate Taylor of Kingston, Kitchener's Dan Turple, Sault Ste. Marie's Kyle Gajewski, Barrie's Dan LaCosta and Belleville's Kevin Lalande to become the first Knights goalie to win the honour, which was first awarded in 1988.

Before that season, the OHL's first-team all-star goalie was generally considered the top netminder in the circuit and the Knights have boasted only one first-teamer -- Pat Riggin in 1977.

Dennis received 74 points in voting from the OHL's member teams, followed by Turple (40 points) and Lalande (29 points). Guelph's Ryan MacDonald, a former London Knight who was traded for Dennis last year, wasn't among the nominees.

"I was surprised by that," Dennis said. "It goes to show you how difficult it is (to win top goalie)."

Dennis will receive the award at the Hockey Hall of Fame at a ceremony in June and is now put forward as the OHL's nominee for the Canadian Hockey League's top goalie, which will be revealed during Memorial Cup week in Moncton next month.

For now, Dennis is focused on London's first game of their second-round series with the upstart Owen Sound Attack tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre. The crease matchup pits this year's top goalie against last year's winner -- Michael Ouzas, who played with Mississauga last year before being traded to the Attack this season.

To win, London will need Dennis to come up with big saves against Attack shooters such as Bobby Ryan and Mike Angelidis. Fortunately for the Knights, their goalie has always been a guy who has risen to the occasion and played his best in the biggest games.

"You always look for motivation in every game you play," he said before the playoffs begin. "But at this time of year, you shouldn't need it. The playoffs are self-motivating."

DENNIS BY THE NUMBERS

GP Min SO GAA W L T/OL Sv.Pct.

2002-03, Guelph 18 846 0 3.19 6 7 1 0.895

2003-04, Guelph 46 2662 3 2.50 33 10 2 0.907

2004-05, Guelph 23 1372 3 2.49 5 10 7 0.930

2004-05, London 16 919 3 1.50 12 4 0 0.951

2005-06, London 57 3444 1 2.82 44 9 1 0.915


Videos

Photos