London pushed to limit by Attack

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:47 AM ET

The most dangerous spot on the ice during last night's John Labatt Centre playoff hockey game was just to the right of Owen Sound Attack goaltender Michael Ouzas when the game was over.

London Knights' captain Dylan Hunter might say with pals like his, who needs enemies after he was engulfed in a crash of teammates when he scored 1:17 from the end of the first overtime period to give the Knights a 6-5 win in the game and a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series.

Not a soul left the tense arena as the extra time presented scoring opportunities at both ends, with London's Adam Dennis staving off the concerted Owen Sound offence early in the period, then Ouzas holding the Knights off as it progressed, finally conceding the decisive marker to Hunter.

The overtime win was London's third of the playoffs after two against the Soo Greyhounds in Round 1.

It's getting down to the short strokes in this topsy-turvy series and it's a question now of whether the more talented Knights can pick it up against an Owen Sound team that might be tiring after shortening its bench. The series resumes tonight in Owen Sound.

After London battled back in the third period to take the lead last night, who'd have thought the tiring Attack big line would have enough snap to square it? But it did, Bob Sanguinetti finally getting the puck past Dennis with 36 seconds remaining in regulation.

This has turned into a gritty series, with the Knights pushed to the limit by a hard-working squad that already has one upset this spring, an upending of the favoured Kitchener Rangers.

Some collars are sure to be tight tonight. Try as they might to think in terms of one game, one period or one shift at a time, it is impossible for the larger picture not to intrude in the quiet moments leading up to game time for these guys.

The larger picture is a season of bus rides, practices, gratifying wins, discouraging losses all couched within normal teenaged angst involving school and girlfriends and being away from home.

A lot of players have six months of striving to look back upon. To see it end inside 60 minutes is more than unpalatable.

A team becomes a family in a very real way during a long season and in the playoffs it becomes even closer as the focus ramps up. It's a time of intensity -- pain, important goals, shattering losses and glorious victories.

It has become, for the Knights, a sort of moment of truth. They were not supposed to be considered among the contenders, but here they are, bolstered as they were by the return of players such as Rob Schremp, Dylan Hunter and Dennis from National Hockey League training camps.

They are not as solid as last year's team, not with the loss of players such as Corey Perry, Danny Syvret and that tough and mature defence corps, but the Knights are full measure for where they are this playoff year.

Consider this: they've prevailed even though half their scoring power is on leave -- David Bolland through a suspension, Rob Schremp through a goal-scoring slump that, despite his pile of assists, clearly is getting under his skin.

After Josh Beaulieu scored his second of the playoffs, he stole a puck at the Owen Sound blue-line to tee up Schremp, who smashed his stick after again failing to score.

But like overtime, that's the beauty of hockey. He'll get another chance tonight, maybe again Monday at home in London.


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