Knights rough up Otters

RYAN PYETTE, FREE PRESS SPORTS REPORTER

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Sam Gagner and Pat Kane came back from the world junior hockey tournament with medals.

Forward Sergei Kostitsyn returned with a renewed sense of purpose and a razor-sharp scoring touch.

The 19-year-old Belarus native and Montreal draft pick has had a hand in all nine of the Knights' goals since jetting back from Sweden -- including a two-goal, five-point effort last night -- as London topped Erie 5-3 in a fight-filled game at the John Labatt Centre.

"A lot of NHL guys have been asking me about him and I think when he puts it all together, he can be (the most prolific player in the league)," Kane said. "You look at what's he done since he came back. He's quiet in the room but that's because he's (Belarussian), the language thing. Just joking around with him, I think he's the funniest guy on the team."

Gagner and Kane -- two big reasons why the Knights will bid again to play host to Memorial Cup in 2008 -- continue to light up Erie, combining for eight goals and 22 points in three games against the basement-dwelling Otters.

Kane scored a spinnerama goal in the third period that conjured memories of Gagner's fancy stickhandling effort against Sudbury early in the season (Erie goalie Kevin Beech, traded from Sudbury recently, was the unfortunate victim of both markers).

"No, not at all -- Sam's still our highlight goal of the season," Kane said, downplaying his 28th of this season. "Mine wasn't even close -- it wasn't that hard. His tied the game and mine made it 5-1, but it's always nice to get one."

Erie, rebuilding around a young group of forwards including London's Jordan Skellett and former Stratford Cullitons standout Zack Torquato, lost its sixth game in a row and is in danger of missing the playoffs a second straight season.

Defenceman Todd Perry knocked Torquato loopy with a big hit midway through the second period. The Otters took exception to it with Anthony Peluso trading blows with Perry after the ensuing faceoff and connecting on a shot that sent Perry to the dressing room for the rest of the game.

"That started it when Peluso hit Todd," said London's fiesty forward Jordan Shine, who ended up fighting three times in the game. "It was a clean fight but you can't let that kind of stuff stand. Emotions were running high and you have to go right back out there and change the momentum.

"I've never been so physically exhausted in my life."

Two of Shine's fights were against Erie's Michael Liambas, who stuck out his tongue at the Knight while both were in the penalty box following their first tilt. The Otters defenceman didn't appreciate Shine's on-ice antics.

"Just the way he carries himself out there, it's a joke," Liambas said. "He's pointing at the back of his jersey, gesturing to the bench and yelling and screaming in the penalty box. A guy in the box told me he was just embarrassing himself out there.

"I think the Perry hit started it all. It was a clean hit, I thought, but Torquato's one of our best players so we had to do something about that. You can't let something like that happen."

The Knights honoured their three returning world junior participants -- Gagner (Canada), Kane (United States), Kostitsyn (Belarus) -- in a pregame ceremony. Gagner carried his gold medal around with him for a few days after coming home from Sweden but it's now hanging in his bedroom.

"Growing up, I'd watch (the tournament) on TV and those guys playing in it were my idols," he said, "so to be able to compete at that level was a special feeling. It was a learning process and it took a while to get used to it but as the tournament went on, I felt more comfortable. Definitely, looking back, I learned a lot at what it takes to play in that tournament."

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GAME GLANCE

Knights 5, Otters 3

London goals: Sergei Kostitsyn (2), Robbie Drummond, Sam Gagner, Pat Kane

Erie goals: Nick Palmieri, Justin Hodgman, Patrick Lee

Next: London heads to Windsor Arena tomorrow to take on the Spitfires at 2 p.m.


Photos