Martinelli's marker memorable

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

London's unlikely hero hadn't arrived to practice yet, so someone asked Sergei Kostitsyn if he knew the whereabouts of Knights defenceman Ryan Martinelli.

"He scored. Two days off," the wily Belarussian said with his trademark grin.

The 19-year-old Martinelli didn't really get two days off, but the six-foot-five stay-at-home defender will need a break after constant reminders from his teammates it wasn't a dream when he bagged the winning goal with two seconds left in the third period at Guelph on Tuesday.

Martinelli's magical marker gave his team a 3-1 stranglehold in the OHL Western Conference final with Game 5 tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre.

"I slept awesome (Tuesday night)," said the Londoner, who now has three goals in 119 OHL games. "I got a couple of calls about it and my mom and my dad were happy for me. It was great to score that goal. It's unexpected from a guy like me."

The most similar Knights example of an unsung hero stepping out of the shadows was defensive blue-liner Marc Methot scoring twice -- including the overtime winner -- to open last year's Memorial Cup tournament with a win over Rimouski.

"We gave it to Marc Methot last year for scoring something like two goals against Windsor all year and that's it and then scoring two in the first game of the Memorial Cup," London captain Dylan Hunter said. "It kind of reminds you of that. Marty (Martinelli) isn't a guy who gets a lot of goals but I always tell the guys in playoffs, you're no longer labelled a goal-scorer or a penalty killer any more.

"You're just a player," Hunter said, "and you do what you need to do to help the team, whether it's chip in the odd goal if you're on defence or kill a penalty if you're an offensive guy."

Martinelli, whose father, Barry, is an assistant coach with Western's men's hockey team, played for Banting secondary school, then the St. Thomas Stars of the Western Junior B Hockey League.

He was signed by London last year and spent much of the Memorial Cup run on the bench, watching and learning.

"Last year, I was the sixth or seventh defenceman, so it took a while this year to get used to being in the top four," Martinelli said. "You go through that at first, where you have to feel comfortable with it and it's been going well."

His big goal left London head coach Dale Hunter beaming following the victory.

"Marty let a good shot go and the most important thing was that it got through," Hunter said. "It was good for him to be able to do interviews after the game. That doesn't happen very often to defensive defencemen. They don't get much of the credit -- the goal-scorers do."

OHL ALL-ROOKIE TEAMS

First team

Goalie: Ryan Daniels, Saginaw

Defence: Drew Doughty, Guelph, and Mark Katic, Sarnia

Centre: John Tavares, Oshawa

Left wing: Bryan Cameron, Belleville

Right wing: Sergei Kostitsyn, London

Second team

Goalie: Sebastian Dahm, Belleville

Defence: Scott Aarssen, London, and Jakub Vojta, Ottawa

Centre: Logan Couture, Ottawa

Left wing: Oskar Osala, Mississauga

Right wing: Dale Mitchell, Oshawa

CLUTCH GOALS

Trainer Don Brankley has witnessed nearly every clutch goal scored in the history of the London Knights. Here's his top three.

1 Dan Eastman in 1977 semifinal against the St. Catharines Fincups. Eastman's overtime winner at the London Gardens gave the Knights an eight-game victory, sending London to the OHL final against Ottawa, which London lost in six games.

"That one still stands out in my mind -- it sent us to the league final. In the playoff format back then, it was first to get eight points and there were ties so we ended up winning a seven-game series in eight games."

2 Marc Methot's overtime winner to beat Rimouski in the opener of the 2005 Memorial Cup.

"If we don't win that game, who knows what happens?"

The Knights wouldn't have finished a perfect 4-0, may not have gained the bye into the Cup final and might not have been rested enough to roll over Sidney Crosby and the Oceanic 4-0 in the title game.

3 Ryan Martinelli's winner with two seconds left in the third period to give London a 3-1 edge in the Western Conference final over Guelph on Tuesday night.

"I told them afterward that this goal will be talked about for a long time. You never see game-winners in the playoffs like that with two seconds left in the third period."


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