If Sergei Kostitsyn plays the same way he did this week during the Christmas holidays, the Belarus entry at the world junior hockey championship won't be a pushover.
The 19-year-old Knights forward, who is sure to suit up for his native land against puck heavyweights like Canada, Russia and the United States at the international tournament in Sweden, scored twice -- including the third-period winner -- and added an assist as London knocked off the defending OHL champion Peterborough Petes 4-2 before 9,090 yesterday at the John Labatt Centre.
The Belarusians should be pleased the Montreal Canadiens draft pick, who had been hoping to play in the American Hockey League this year, has kicked his game into another gear lately. The strapping forward has eight points in his last three games, including the stunning short-handed overtime winner Wednesday in Sarnia.
"We don't have a really good team (in Belarus) but I'm excited to play in (the world A pool)," Kostitsyn said. "I'm ready. I wasn't comfy the first five games (in London), but it's better now. It's going well."
It would go even better for Belarus if the country could find a way to grant citizenship to Knights forward Adam Perry, who also scored twice yesterday to give him five goals in his last two games. Kostitsyn and Perry have figured in each of the Knights' last 11 goals.
"I told Sergei I'll watch him (on TV during the holidays) but I'm not going to cheer for his team," Perry said with a big grin. "I think he's been great all year but he's just getting some more bounces now. The puck wasn't going in for him earlier like it is now."
Though rookies Sam Gagner and Pat Kane are largely considered London's offensive dynamic duo, Kostitsyn and Perry are proving teams can't just focus on shutting out that pair.
"Sam and Pat are great but they can't be expected to score three or four goals every game," said Perry, who is off to another quick start with 19 goals in 25 games. "That's not always going to happen. I thought we played pretty well (the Knights outshot the Petes 45-26). It just took us a while to get going (offensively) but it was on the older guys' minds that we were swept last year by them in the OHL final and I think we sent them a message."
The game started with a fight between London's Josh Beaulieu and Pete tough guy Justin Soryal, the same combatants in last year's four-fight start to the regular season at Peterborough. This punchup didn't lead to a successive string of scraps.
"I think there might've been a little bit of last year in that," Soryal said. "But he's a guy who fights a lot and I'm a guy who fights a lot so it's not really a surprise."
Peterborough captain Steve Downie, who was vilified in London for dirty stick play in last year's final, was virtually ignored by the crowd this time around. The former Windsor Spitfire assisted on Daniel Ryder's short-handed goal in the second period to extend his personal point streak to 12 games.
With defenceman Scott Aarssen (shoulder) out and Ryan Martinelli a game-time decision, London captain Robbie Drummond dropped back and played a regular shift on defence.
"I have some experience there and I'll do whatever Dale (head coach Dale Hunter) asks of me," the 20-year-old said. "I think it's a temporary measure but Trevor (Kell) thought it would be last year and he ended up spending a good amount of time back there."
Martinelli, who was woozy from his fight with Saginaw's Ryan O'Marra on Friday, wasn't diagnosed with a concussion but didn't expect to play yesterday. The big defender's ice time was reduced but he still chipped in with valuable minutes needed from a depleted and inexperienced blue line that managed to keep the Petes in check.
"I thought I was just going to ride the bike but (GM) Mark (Hunter) said I should try it in warmup and it felt OK," the 20-year-old Londoner said.
Knights 4, Petes 2
London goals: Adam Perry (2), Sergei Kostitsyn (2)
Peterborough goals: Pat Daley, Daniel Ryder
Next: The Owen Sound Attack make their third and final visit of the regular season to the John Labatt Centre Friday at 7:30 p.m.