OWEN SOUND -- For the third consecutive year, the London Knights are back in the OHL's Western Conference final.
Robbie Drummond, who scored 14 goals in the regular season, recorded a hat trick with power-play tallies in each of the three periods to lead the Knights past Owen Sound 5-2 for a 4-2 series win over the Attack before 3,488 last night at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.
London will face familiar foe Guelph Storm in the best-of-seven Western Conference final with Game 1 on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre. The Barrie Colts and Peterborough Petes will meet in the Eastern Conference final.
Guelph is the only OHL team to with a winning regular-season record against the Knights. If Rob Schremp thought it was tough to score against Michael Ouzas in the Owen Sound net, he knows it'll be difficult to beat old buddy -- former Knight Ryan MacDonald -- in the Guelph cage.
Upstart Owen Sound, which bounced powerhouse Kitchener from the first round in five games, couldn't have asked for more optimal conditions in this series. The Attack held London's star shooter Schremp goal-less in all six contests and played all but a game-and-a-half with Knights top goal-getter Bolland out for four games for kicking.
Bolland, who has scored 11 times in six playoff contests, will be eligible to return on Thursday for the Western final opener.
Many will remember the phantom whistle in overtime of Game 5 that led to London captain Dylan Hunter's dramatic winner at the JLC as the turning point in the series, but the Knights went into Owen Sound and beat the Attack twice on their ice, outscoring them 10-3 in Games 4 and 6.
The Knights are entering familiar territory in the Western final. They beat Kitchener in five games en route to its first OHL and Memorial Cup titles last year and lost to Adam Dennis and the eventual OHL champion Storm in seven games in 2004.
Owen Sound had to play the better part of the last two periods without their two best defencemen -- Bob Sanguinetti, who was injured on a charge by London's Kris Belan in the first period, and Andrej Sekera, who was ejected for boarding London's Trevor Kell early in the second period.
Belan, who was playing in his second contest after serving a five-game suspension for uttering a slur to referee Darcy Burchell, handed Owen Sound the rare seven-minute powerplay for the hit on Sanguinetti.
Belan was slapped with a game misconduct and a fight instigator and 10-minute misconduct for tangling with Owen Sound's Igor Gongalsky immediately after the hit. Sanguinetti, a potential NHL first-rounder who had success offensively against the Knights in the series and is a key cog on the Owen Sound powerplay, had to be helped off the ice.
Owen Sound's powerplay, which struggled without their two offensive defencemen, was forced to use tough guy Theo Peckham and forward Scott Giles on the point in unfamiliar roles.
One of London's biggest reasons for winning the series was having players overcome injury and contribute, especially in Game 5 when Jordan Foreman and Josh Beaulieu both scored.
"Those guys (Foreman and Beaulieu) have been warriors for us and they're what the playoffs are all about," said London goalie Adam Dennis.
Of course, Dennis was another major factor and kept his team in it again last night by making several strong saves, especially in close range against the Attack's largest shooters.
Knights 5, Attack 2
(London wins best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal 4-2)
London goals: Robbie Drummond (3), Dylan Hunter, Sergei Kostitsyn
Owen Sound goals: Jeff Kyrzakos, Mike Angelidis
Next: London will play host to Game 1 of the Western Conference final against Guelph on Thursday at 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.