Star snub has Mason steamed

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

Steve Mason was judged good enough to be invited to the Canadian world junior hockey team's training camp in Calgary last month.

But London Knights goaltender and Columbus Blue Jackets third-rounder wasn't selected to play in the OHL all-star game on Jan. 31 -- and he's not happy about it.

"I think the London Knights get headhunted on things like this because we've had success for the last four years and other teams don't like that," he said.

"It's disappointing because it costs you the recognition. It won't matter anymore come playoff time, but I'll definitely remember it and use it as fuel to play better.

"In a way, it's good in that I'll get a chance to rest and get that day off."

Kitchener's John Murray and Guelph's Thomas McCollum, the league leaders in goals against average, are the Western team's representatives selected by Owen Sound GM Mike Futa and Plymouth GM-coach Mike Vellucci.

Mason, who has a 3.14 GAA, realizes he doesn't have the traditionally important stats of Murray, who entered play last night with a 2.32 GAA, and McCollum, who has 2.33. But few would argue the Knights keeper is the major reason his team is back at the top of the Western conference this season.

Mason has made 1,325 saves -- second in the OHL only to Peterborough's Trevor Cann -- and that's 400 more than Murray and 579 more than McCollum, who has 11 fewer wins than Mason. Plenty of Mason's saves have bailed out an inexperienced London defence or rescued a Knights power play and kept an overwhelmed club in the game.

"I don't want to say I got shafted, but I think they do look at stats more than anything when they pick these things," Mason said. "They should be looking at quality chances and they don't keep (official) stats for those. But if a goalie stops nine out of 10 quality chances, then he's doing the job."

The perceived snub stings more because Mason feels he lost his shot at playing for the gold-medal winning Canadian junior team because he suffered concussion-like symptoms after being run over by a Windsor player the day before he left for training camp.

"Nothing against the other guys, but in my opinion, I definitely think Steve deserved to be playing in the all-star game," London captain Robbie Drummond said. "Sergei Kostitsyn, too. I think Steve's the best goalie in the league and Sergei's one of the best players in the league, so they should both be there."

Kostitsyn, the OHL's reigning player of the week and top European point-getter this season, isn't going, but neither are any other import players.

Rookie forwards Pat Kane and Sam Gagner, who played in the Canadian Hockey League's top prospects game in Quebec on Wednesday, are London's all-stars this season.

Dale Hunter, who will coach the Western all-stars for the second straight year, feels a lot of deserving players are denied an all-star spot because of the requirements for picking the team.

"You need a rep from every team right from the start and you also have to include the guys who played for the world junior team," Hunter said. "(Dan) Ryder got left off, too, and he's a pretty good player. If he stays in the East (Conference with Peterborough) instead of going to Plymouth (in a trade last week), he's probably there, too."

Meanwhile, Kane's and Gagner's hockey gear didn't make it back to London on their return from Quebec City, which required a tight connection in Toronto yesterday. The duo was hoping to hear from the airline soon and have the stuff back in time for tonight's game.

KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: vs. Belleville, 7:30, John Labatt Centre

Tomorrow: at Sault Ste. Marie, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday: at Sudbury, 2 p.m.


Videos

Photos