Knights back in OHL final

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 1:31 PM ET

Sergei Kostitsyn could be elected mayor of London today -- if only Belarusian citizens were eligible for the honour.

London's sleek-skating rookie European forward became the city's latest hockey hero by bagging the Western Conference final series- winning goal on a power play with 2:51 left in the first overtime period to propel the Knights to their second straight OHL championship series with an unforgettable 5-4 victory over the Guelph Storm before 9,090 last night at the John Labatt Centre.

The Knights took the conference final and Wayne Gretzky Trophy in five games and will now meet the Peterborough Petes, who knocked off the Barrie Colts 7-0 last night to win Game 5, in the OHL final likely to start next Friday. The London-Peterborough winner heads to Moncton, N.B., for the Memorial Cup tournament in three weeks.

"It feels good," said Kostitsyn, 19, of Novopolotsk, Belarus. "Someone shot, I don't know who, and I just saw rebound and put it in the net."

For the third straight game, London broke Guelph's hearts with a late goal. The Knights won Game 4 in Guelph on defenceman Ryan Martinelli's first playoff goal with two seconds left in the third period and took Game 3 at the JLC in overtime on David Bolland's winning marker.

Trailing 4-3 with time ticking down, London forward Bolland tipped in Kostitsyn's shot from the slot with 15.3 seconds left on the clock to force overtime. The titanic tally was a power-play effort with Guelph defenceman Kyle Wharton in the penalty box for hitting London's Robbie Drummond from behind with 1:30 left.

Before that, Wharton had been the Guelph hero by scoring twice in the game. His second marker looked to stand up as the game-winner before his penalty.

London forward Rob Schremp, who scored for just the second time in 12 playoff games, said the Knights were motivated by comments they heard were made by former teammate Ryan Pottruff "and that got us boiling."

Pottruff, a former Knight, denied the comments and said he was talking about Game 2

"They're an excellent team and you can't take anything away from them," Pottruff said. "

London's Rob Schremp scored once and picked up three assists to give him 33 helpers in 15 games and a tie for the OHL single-season record with Peterborough's Jason Dawe, who achieved the feat in 21 games with the Petes in 1993.

London, which was in penalty trouble all game, started the third period facing a two-man disadvantage and the Storm capitalized to go up 3-1 on Mike McLean's fifth goal of the playoffs.

At that point, Guelph showed so much discipline that no Storm player even looked at London's Rob Schremp after he swatted at goalie Ryan MacDonald's glove hand while the puck was frozen. With the lead, Guelph wasn't about to hand London a free power play by retaliating.

Guelph's first two goals were scored by Wharton and Jason Pitton, who both came to the Storm in a trade with the Soo Greyhounds earlier this year.

For the fifth straight game, Guelph busted from the gate like crazed horses and took a quick 1-0 lead on Wharton's low shot 4:27 into the first period. But Edmonton first-rounder Schremp, who was playing in front of Oilers GM Kevin Lowe last night, replied less than a minute later with just his second goal in the past 12 games.

London had to fight off major penalty trouble in the first period. The Knights were handed six penalties and only went once to the power play, where it was quickly erased by another infraction. But the Storm only scored one time in their half-dozen opportunities and it would come back to haunt them later in the game.

London's defensive game plan was to keep everything simple, but the temptation to create quick offensive chances led to serious trouble in their own zone.

Knights goalie Adam Dennis had to bail out his mates with several big saves, including a clutch pad stack in the second period on Storm forward Mark O'Leary's breakaway.

London's defence didn't have a quality outing in the first two periods.

GAME GLANCE

Knights 5, Storm 4 (OT)

London wins best-of-seven Western Conference final 4-1

London goals: Rob Schremp, Sergei Kostitsyn, Dylan Hunter, David Bolland and Kostitsyn, with the winner with 2:51 left in the first overtime

Guelph goals: Kyle Wharton (2), Jason Pitton, Mike McLean

Next: London will meet Peterborough in the best-of-seven OHL final.


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