Knights perfect Houdini act

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

All young hockey players are told success will come if they simply work hard, outplay their opponent and stick to the game plan.

It's all lies. Just ask the Guelph Storm, Owen Sound Attack and Soo Greyhounds.

If you don't have clutch scoring talent, a big-game goaltender and an undeniable will to win, you'll be on the sidelines wondering how the London Knights slipped past you into a second straight OHL final.

London's uncanny ability to rescue itself from certain defeat confounded Sault Ste. Marie and confused Owen Sound. But the Knights saved their greatest escapes for the Western Conference final against Guelph, whose players and coaching staff will be shaking their heads for months in recalling their playoff elimination at the soft hands of the defending Memorial Cup champs.

London won Game 3 on a David Bolland goal in overtime, took Game 4 on low-scoring defenceman Ryan Martinelli's goal with two seconds left in the third period and, finally, knocked out the Storm Friday night at the John Labatt Centre on Sergei Kostitsyn's overtime winner after Bolland tied it with 15.3 seconds left in the third period.

All three victories came after London was angry and embarrassed by losing 7-1 at Guelph in Game 2. The Storm looked dominant at times in every game -- especially in the first 10 minutes -- but they never got another sniff at victory.

"I don't want to say that some things are meant to be, but it looks like some things are meant to be," London captain Dylan Hunter said Friday night. "When we had to get going, we got going. We spent the whole second half of the third period and most of the overtime in their end. After we tied it, it felt like it would be a matter of time before we won it and we worked our (butts) off to get it."

Unbelievably to many, London is four wins away from a second straight OHL title and a trip to Moncton, N.B., in three weeks to defend its Memorial Cup crown. The Knights will face Peterborough, which also has that "team of destiny" feeling after going 6-0 in overtime in the playoffs, including three such victories over Barrie in the Eastern Conference final.

But the Petes experienced London's heart-breaking ability twice in the regular season. Peterborough blasted more than 50 shots at Knights backup goalie Steve Mason Feb. 17 at the JLC and still lost 4-1.

With first place overall at stake March 2, London went into Peterborough, overcame an early 2-0 deficit and won 4-2. The Knights never fell back, securing home-ice advantage throughout the OHL playoffs.

The undercurrent to the matchup will be what happened in London's past two visits to Peterborough. This season, the game started with four consecutive fights in eight seconds, earning head coaches Dale Hunter and Dick Todd two-game suspensions.

Last year, a line brawl broke out in the Petes' blowout win. But with a Memorial Cup berth on the line, there is unlikely to be much fisticuffs in this series.

OHL FINAL SCHEDULE

Peterborough vs. London

- Friday: at London, 7:30 p.m. (Rogers TV)

- Sunday, May 7: at Peterborough, 4:30 p.m. (Rogers Sportsnet)

- Tuesday, May 9: at London, 7 p.m. (Rogers TV)

- Thursday, May 11: at Peterborough, 7 p.m. (TV Cogeco)

- Friday, May 12: at London, 7:30 p.m., if necessary (Rogers TV)

- Sunday, May 14: at Peterborough, TBA, if necessary (Rogers Sportsnet)

- Tuesday, May 16: at London, 7 p.m., if necessary (Rogers TV)

LONDON'S LATE-GAME MAGIC

- April 28: London 5, Guelph 4. Sergei Kostitsyn scores overtime winner after David Bolland forces extra time by tipping in his Belarussian buddy's shot with 15.3 seconds left in the third period.

- April 25: London 2, Guelph 1. Low-scoring defenceman Ryan Martinelli's point shot with two seconds left in the third period beats Guelph goalie Ryan MacDonald for the game winner.

- April 23: London 3, Guelph 2. Bolland buries overtime winner as Knights regroup from 7-1 drubbing at Guelph the previous game.

- April 14: London 6, Owen Sound 5. Dylan Hunter pots overtime winner on a delayed penalty call after Attack goalie Michael Ouzas and defenceman Andrej Sekera stop playing, thinking the whistle had been blown.

- March 28: London 5, Sault Ste. Marie 4. Bolland completes the hat trick and closes down the Sault Memorial Gardens for good with the winner with 50 seconds left in the first overtime period.

- March 26: London 6, Sault Ste. Marie 5. Rob Schremp scores two late power-play goals to force overtime, where Kostitsyn wins it.


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