Hunter gives Petes credit

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Knights out, the party's over.

In the grim aftermath of getting swept, some London Knights wept as much about how close they'd come as they did about bowing out of the Ontario Hockey League championship series in four straight games.

It hurt and it was clear in the eyes of team captain Dylan Hunter after failing to force yet another overtime in their 4-3 loss to the Peterborough Petes.

"We had a young team and nobody thought we'd go this far," the Buffalo Sabres draft pick said. "It's tough. But you have to give them credit over there (the Petes). They got the bounces for a reason. They worked hard. But so did we."

If history was the London Knights' only foe in the OHL final, they might have been able to manufacture some magic.

But there also was a well-prepared, disciplined Petes in their way and London's hopes of a second straight Memorial Cup appearance were dashed.

Only seven teams in the 87-year history of the Memorial Cup have repeated, the most recent being the Kamloops Blazers in 1994 and '95.

But this was the strangest four-straight dismissal many had seen. It was a series marked by two overtime games and a last-minute deciding goal, a parity that was not broken last night. Everything was about equal, except the raft of penalties handed London.

A tense capacity crowd was on the edge of their seats even as the minutes waned with the Knights two goals in arrears.

When Rob Schremp scored his second of the game with less than three minutes remaining to make the score 4-3, the tension rose as the Knights poured it on in efforts to get the tying goal.

The scoring chances over the series were about even and even some Petes personnel figured they could have been down two games to one going into last night's match.

Peterborough coach Dick Todd has been through a lot of junior playoff hockey in his 14 years as head coach, but this one struck him as unique.

"This series was tight, as close as could be, with the overtime games and everything," Todd said.

It was no different last night. The Petes had 34 shots to 30 for London and legitimate scoring chances, after the Knights pulled goalie Steve Mason just over a minute from the end, balanced out, too.

If anything marked the Petes throughout this set, it was their poise. They never wavered after falling behind 2-0 following a jackrabbit London start. Instead, they came back with four straight first-period goals.

In a nutshell, you could say this was a series between a team blessed with top goaltending and a few exceptional forwards against a team with good goaltending, a mature defence and three solid lines.

Truth is, part of the current blue-line crop has been a learn-on-the-job thing and before all else, immediately suffered in comparison with last year's crop, four of whom went directly to the American Hockey League.

"We do scoring chances after every game and after three games, there was a differential of two," assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said.

Beaulieu spoke of the vagaries of hockey when he considered the Knights playoff season as a whole.

"Even the last series against Guelph, we could have been down two games, but we were up two games," he said. "Sometimes, it's all about bounces."

Peterborough came up with an answer for just about everything the Knights threw at them and in the end, gave their fans a chance to hurl half-a-dozen brooms to the ice surface when the final buzzer went.


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