Knights capitalize on luck

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

The London Knights realize they are fortunate to be up 3-1 in their OHL Western Conference final series with the Guelph Storm.

But no Las Vegas gambler ever struck it rich without dancing with Lady Luck. And no hockey team ever qualified for its league final without capitalizing when the puck bounced its way.

"We were godawful in the first two games of this series," London forward Rob Schremp said. "We were lucky to win the first one the way we played and we got spanked in the second one. The third was more our game (a 3-2 overtime win) and I thought we deserved to win the last one.

"But we know we could be down 3-1 just as easily as we're up 3-1 right now."

The difference in the series has been clutch scoring and timely goaltending -- both advantages belonging to London. Guelph has often dominated play, especially early in each game, but there's no strategy, no videotape, no inspirational speech OHL coach of the year Dave Barr can give his Storm that will help them find the net when the outcome hangs in the balance.

"One thing you learn the longer you go in the playoffs is that you get more calm," London captain Dylan Hunter said. "By the time you get to an OHL final or Memorial Cup, you actually relax because you realize the games come down to bounces anyway, so you just enjoy it. You don't overskate or try to do too much because it's not going to help.

"There is something to having been there before."

London head coach Dale Hunter never looked happier than in the moments following Ryan Martinelli's winning goal on Tuesday.

He simply stated he was pleased the Knights took a hard-fought contest against an opponent he views as equal in an arena his team hadn't won in all season.

"We go over the video to look for tendencies, but you can't teach that (clutch scoring)," Dale Hunter said. "It's not always the guys you expect who score. I remember playing with John Druce (with the Washington Capitals). He scored more goals in the playoffs than he did in the regular season. That stuff happens. We gave ourselves a chance in the third period and we got the break."

Sault Ste. Marie felt they hung well with London in the first round, but head coach Craig Hartsburg admitted his Greyhounds couldn't produce the big goal.

Owen Sound was proud to push London to six games, but Attack head coach Mike Stothers conceded the Knights found ways to fill the net when needed.

Guelph knows it has the personnel and coaching to beat London, but finds itself in the uncomfortable position of having to win three straight games to eliminate the Knights.

"I'd say we've been the better team in this series," Guelph goalie and ex-Knight Ryan MacDonald said. "We're just going to have to keep playing the way we are and maybe a bounce will go our way. We know we have a good team and that (belief) will have to carry us through."

If it doesn't, the 20-year-old Chesley native knows his OHL career is over.

Schremp, who has just one goal in his last 11 playoff games, said his team is just doing what it has done all season -- finding ways to survive and escape and specializing in winning games when no one thinks they have a chance "Guelph's penalty killing has been awesome -- you're getting double-teamed on the power play and wondering what the heck is going on -- you have to pretty much score on the rush against them. It's been tough to score because Macker (Guelph goalie MacDonald) knows what I'm going to do. I let a slapshot go, do everything right and he's already in position to deflect it into the crowd. Then, Ryan Martinelli shoots from the blue-line with two seconds left and it handcuffs him."

London needs one win to become the first team since the 2000-01 Plymouth Whalers to reach back-to-back OHL finals. The Whalers lost both appearances to Barrie (2000) and Ottawa (2001). The 1991-92 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds are the last team to claim two straight J. Ross Robertson Cups as OHL champions.

Given the rivalry and history between the two teams, it would be fitting if the series went to a Game 7 Monday night in London.

But the Knights aren't interested in trying that on. They want to end it here, tonight, and be done with one scary Storm.

KNIGHTWATCH

Knights lead best-of-seven Western Conference final 3-1

Game 5: Tonight, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Game 6: If necessary, Sunday, 3 p.m. in Guelph


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