Captain rules the Knight

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

Last night was supposed to be a coronation of the Saginaw Spirit as one of the OHL's kings this season.

Instead, it was confirmation the London Knights aren't giving up their reign as OHL royalty anytime soon.

Led by new captain Robbie Drummond's two goals and four points, the Knights opened the 2006-07 season with a convincing 6-3 win at the John Labatt Centre.

"You have that C on your (chest) and you want to live up to it," the 20-year-old Londoner said. "We know we have a good team . . . and we wanted to go out and prove it against a team picked to finish high."

Drummond takes his leadership role seriously, even sitting in the dressing room stall that belonged to former captain Dylan Hunter, although it wasn't his first choice.

"I went rock-paper-scissors with A.J. (Adam) Perry and he beat me," Drummond said.

After the display of offensive wizardry, his single-season high of 14 goals appears to be in jeopardy. It was an eventful summer for the slick skater, who worked out for Washington, attended Columbus' rookie camp and went to B.C. to take part in filming of the hockey reality show "Last Man Standing." It starts today at 8 p.m. on Global.

"I don't think I'm any faster than last year, but I feel I'm stronger on the puck," he said. "I went to Columbus and learned as much as I could. I was a sponge."

London's sharpshooters victimized Saginaw veteran goalie Ryan Daniels for four goals on seven shots in the first period as the Knights turned the tables on the Spirit, who ruined last year's JLC opening party with a 10-7 win.

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The game was 60 minutes of pure redemption for Knights starting goalie Steve Mason, who lasted less than a period and a half in allowing five goals on 18 Saginaw shots in his debut last year. The 18-year-old Oakville native and Columbus third-rounder stopped 39 shots, including a third-period penalty shot by Tyler Haskins.

"I felt good in there and after we killed a couple of penalties early in the game, our offence stepped and it's always nice to play with the lead," Mason said. "Saginaw has some top-end players, but so do we. We have the Kanes, the Gagners and Kostitsyn back. We definitely have the firepower to compete with anyone."

Showing much more pluck and work ethic early, the Knights turned aside Saginaw's advantage before London's favourite Belarussian Sergei Kostitsyn -- on the power play -- and Drummond scored 43 seconds apart midway through the first period.

Star import Pat Kane of

Buffalo and football convert Luke VanMoerkerke of

Tillsonburg scored their first OHL goals to give the Knights a positive start to their

regular-season title defence.

Saginaw came into the game as one of the most highly touted teams in the OHL. Next up for the Knights are the Owen Sound Attack, another club predicted to enjoy success this season. London plays seven of its first 10 games at home and has a chance to bust from the gate quickly.

Not even the technical aspects of the game favoured the Spirit. The first official OHL video review at the

JLC took place early in the second period over a disputed Saginaw shot and the no-goal decision allowed the Knights to maintain a 4-2 lead.

Knights general manager Mark Hunter coached his first game at the JLC when he joined new assistants Dave Gagner and Todd Bidner behind the bench with Dale Hunter serving the first of a two-game suspension handed down after Matt Davis hopped the boards to join a brawl during an exhibition game on Sept. 8.

Davis has since been sent home to Hamilton by the Knights for off-ice behaviour unrelated to the incident.

"We had to call the league to get clearance," Mark Hunter said. "It was OK, so I'm going back there. It's been a while (since he's coached)."

Before buying the Knights, Mark Hunter coached the Sarnia Sting and St. John's Maple Leafs in the AHL.

In Sarnia, former Knight Trevor Kell, who scored a hat trick in the Sting's 7-3 win over Plymouth last night, and Harrison Reed were named assistant captains this week. The Sting captain is Kell's new roommate, veteran defenceman Ryan Wilson, who came to Sarnia after three seasons with Toronto St. Mike's.


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