A year ago, Dylan Hunter and his London Knights teammates ran roughshod over the Ontario Hockey League, and eventually had their way with Sidney Crosby in the Memorial Cup final.
But with the losses of such talents as Corey Perry, Dan Fritsche and Danny Syvret, no one predicted in September the Knights would be competing for the OHL title, again. Yet here they are, ready to play host to the Peterborough Petes in Game 1 of the final tonight.
"It's a little more gratifying than it was last year because we've been thought of more as underdogs," Hunter, the Knights captain, said. "Not many were expecting us to do this."
Thanks to outstanding seasons from Rob Schremp, Hunter, David Bolland and goalie Adam Dennis, the Knights are trying to become the first OHL club since the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1991 and '92 to win back-to-back titles.
This is the final most observers were expecting as the Knights and Petes finished atop their respective conferences in the regular season. The Petes should hope for a long series. They have better depth while the Knights rely on the same group of players each game. Of course, it has worked so far.
"Their best players have been their best players, but we have respect for all of their players," Petes captain Jamie Tardif said.
Prediction: Knights in seven
Stamkos likely No. 1
The Sarnia Sting, which yesterday named Dave MacQueen coach, is expected to announce today it is selecting Steve Stamkos first overall in the OHL draft tomorrow. Stamkos, a 6-foot, 160-pound centre, had 197 points in 67 games with the Markham Waxers minor midgets this season. The Oshawa Generals are expected to go with defenceman Michael Del Zotto at No. 2, while the Mississauga IceDogs have their sights on defenceman Alex Pietrangelo at No. 3.