Attack star spoils for upset

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

The London Knights know Owen Sound scoring star Bobby Ryan doesn't like them and will stop at nothing to destroy their playoff hopes in their opening-round series starting Friday at the John Labatt Centre.

When you look at the history between the two teams, it becomes apparent why a frustrated Ryan made the comment back on Dec. 1 that London "won't survive a seven-game series with us."

All four years the 20-year-old has played in the OHL, London has finished first in the league. When the Attack put together a franchise-best season in 2004-05, they still finished light years behind a Memorial Cup-champion Knights squad considered one of the best teams in junior hockey history.

In last year's playoffs, Owen Sound took out Kitchener and was in fine form to do the same to London. But the bitterly contested series turned in the fifth game at the JLC when the Knights won in overtime on a controversial call after the Attack stopped playing because they thought they heard a whistle.

In January, Ryan became Owen Sound's all-time leading point-getter at home against London. The Knights won 8-2. Last week, he became his team's all-time leading goal scorer at home against London. The Knights won a 7-6 shootout.

Even the road trips to play in the Forest City have made for some uncomfortable moments for Ryan.

"The one I remember most was going to London my second year (in 2004-05) when we had the big rivalry with them," the second overall pick of Anaheim in the 2005 NHL draft said. "It was mid-February, the heater on the bus broke and it was minus-20 degrees on there. We were freezing and that one (trip) felt like it took forever. We couldn't wait to get off the bus."

All that history, and Ryan still encouraged Buffalo native Pat Kane to play for London when they skated together at a United States world junior team evaluation camp in the summer.

The London rookie, who ended up as a key player for the U.S. in Sweden while Ryan was snubbed by the club, wound up becoming the third straight Knight (after Corey Perry and Rob Schremp) to win the OHL scoring title with 62 goals and 145 points.

Ryan had 43 goals and 102 points to crack the century mark for the first time but many -- even in Owen Sound -- felt he underachieved when comparing his game with that of Kane and fellow London star Sergei Kostitsyn.

While the Attack underachieved to eighth place in the Western Conference, the most remarkable part of London's 50-win, 104-point regular season was the ability to immediately replace its high-end talent.

London lost OHL goalie-of-the-year Adam Dennis and first-time starter Steve Mason stepped in and set the league record for wins with 45. The Knights said goodbye to 146 goals and 392 points when Schremp, Dave Bolland and Dylan Hunter graduated last season, but Kane, Kostitsyn and Sam Gagner combined for 137 goals and 394 points at a younger age.

"We had a good regular season -- there were a lot of shootouts (London finished 10-3 in the breakaway contests) but our guys know it's a whole new ball game in the playoffs," said Knights general manager Mark Hunter. "We know what kind of game we're going to play but they're (the Attack) going to have their own game plan. We have to be ready for them on Friday."

The first order of business for London is returning healthy players to the lineup. Captain Rob Drummond, defenceman Kevin Montgomery, Andrew Wilkins and Jordan Foreman have missed time in the last few weeks.

"We'll know more (today)," Hunter said. "We want to have as many of these guys ready to play as we can."

London is a little light in the physical toughness department with Josh Beaulieu and David Jarram serving 10 and 15-game abuse of officials suspensions.

Mark Hunter is acting coach because his brother Dale isn't available until Game 4 while serving a five-game suspension for failure to control his bench during the Kitchener incidents on March 8.

After coaching on Friday night, Mark Hunter drove to Whitby to continue scouting players for next year's team. After returning home from Erie early yesterday morning, he travelled to Ann Arbor, Mich., to watch more games.

"I can do both," he said. "It's no big deal. We're not going to miss anything."

HEAD-TO-HEAD

London vs. Owen Sound

Sept. 29: Knights 6, Attack 5 (London wins shootout 3-2) at JLC

Oct. 20: Attack 5, Knights 2 at JLC

Dec. 1: Knights 5, Attack 3 at JLC

Jan. 27: Knights 8, Attack 2 at Harry Lumley Bayshore Comm. Centre

Feb. 24: Attack 6, Knights 3 at Bayshore

March. 11: Knights 7, Attack 6 (London wins shootout 2-1) at Bayshore

ATTACK VS. KNIGHTS

Schedule for the best-of-seven OHL Western conference quarter-final playoff series between the London Knights and the Owen Sound Attack

Friday -- at London, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday -- at Owen Sound, 7:30 p.m.

Tues., March 27 -- at London, 7:05 p.m.

Thurs., March 29 -- at Owen Sound, 7:30 p.m.

x-Sun., April 1 -- at London, 2 p.m.

x-Mon., April 2 -- at Owen Sound, 7 p.m.

x-Tues., April * -- at London, 7:05 p.m.

x -- if necessary

2006-07 LONDON KNIGHTS REGULAR SEASON IN REVIEW

Record: 50 wins, 14 losses, one overtime loss, three shootout losses. Points: 104. Goals: 311. Goals against: 231.

Sept. 22: Knights 6, Saginaw 3: New captain Rob Drummond scored twice and posted four points over highly regarded Spirit.

Sept. 29: Knights 6, Owen Sound 5: Sam Gagner put up four points and buried shootout winner.

Sept. 30: Knights 7 at Erie 3: Adam Perry celebrated a hat trick as London connected on five power-play goals.

Oct. 6: Sudbury 3, Knights 2: Sam Gagner scored a highlight reel goal to wow the John Labatt Centre crowd but London fell in the shootout.

Oct. 8: Knights 6, Ottawa 2: Yale transfer David Meckler scored twice as Knights outshot Ottawa 51-31.

Oct. 9: Knights 5 at Windsor 4: Rob Drummond played hero with overtime winner in comeback win over the Spitfires.

Oct. 13: Knights 9, Windsor 2: Pat Kane achieved a hat trick -- the first of seven this season -- to bury the Spits.

Oct. 14: Knights 5 at Plymouth 2: Red-hot rookie Sam Gagner had 22 points in eight games after torching the Whalers for another goal and two assists.

Oct 15: Knights 5, Kitchener 4: Adam Hasani decided a marathon 11-round shootout with the breakaway winner.

Oct. 20: Owen Sound 5, Knights 2: London lost its first regulation game as journeyman Attack goalie Scott Bowles kicked out 39 saves.

Oct 22: Knights 7, Brampton 5: Finally healthy Jordan Foreman dominated with four points to bury the Battalion.

Oct 24: Knights 1 at Kitchener 4: London lost its first road game and Sam Gagner's 11-game point streak came to an end.

Oct. 27: Knights 5, Sarnia 2: With Sam Gagner out, Jordan Shine and Matt Clarke scored key goals to subdue the Sting.

Oct. 28: Knights 3 at Barrie 5: Bryan Little scored twice as the Colts temporarily knock London out of top spot in the OHL.

Nov. 3: Knights 4 at Kitchener 2. Steve Mason withstood 47 Rangers shots in leading London over its division rivals.

Nov. 4: Knights 3, Guelph 1: Sergei Kostisyn scored game-winner with just over two minutes left in tight defensive battle.

Nov. 5: Knights 4 at Guelph 3: Backup goalie Stephane Cesar won first OHL start with shootout win over the Storm.

Nov. 8: Knights 7 at Mississauga 5: David Meckler added his sixth two-goal game as the Knights subdued the high-scoring IceDogs.

Nov. 10: Oshawa 3, Knights 2: John Tavares got shut out but James DeLory scored overtime winner as the Generals upset the Knights.

Nov. 16: Kitchener 3, Knights 0: John Murray shut out London for its first time in nine months with 23 saves.

Nov. 17: Knights 9, Erie 1: London roared back from shutout and two-game losing streak with strict punishment of the Otters.

Nov. 19: Knights 4, Toronto 1: After Andrew Wilkins missed a third-period penalty shot, London scored three goals in under five minutes to stuff the Majors.

Nov. 22: Knights 4, Sarnia 3: Sergei Kostitsyn scored the overtime winner on a breakaway while his team was two men short.

Nov. 24: Saginaw 4, Knights 3: Steve Mason turned aside 55 shots and 38 quality scoring chances, but Tom Pyatt beat him in the shootout for a Spirit win.

Nov. 26: Knights 4, Peterborough 2: Sergei Kostisyn and Peterborough native Adam Perry scored twice to win OHL final rematch.

Dec. 1: Knights 5, Owen Sound 3: Big defenceman Todd Perry hammered Bobby Ryan, fought Theo Peckham and added game-winning goal in dominant performance.

Dec. 2: Knights 5 at Saginaw 4: Steve Mason exacted revenge for earlier shootout loss by stopping Tom Pyatt, Patrick McNeill and Ryan O'Marra.

Dec. 3: Knights 3 at Sault Ste. Marie 2: This time, Stephane Cesar backstopped the Knights to a shootout win in the Sault.

Dec. 7: Plymouth 7, Knights 1: Led by Tom Sestito's hat trick, the Whalers and their big forwards make a statement by pounding London into the ice.

Dec. 8: Mississauga 5, Knights 4: A second straight troubling loss on home ice had Knights head coach Dale Hunter vowing to re-evaluate his roster.

Dec. 9: Knights 8 at Windsor 4: Pat Kane had three goals and five points as London broke out of its mini-funk.

Dec. 15: Windsor 5, Knights 1: The Knights looked dreadful in a third straight home loss and faced the immediate future without world junior participants Pat Kane, Sergei Kostitsyn and Sam Gagner.

Dec. 16: Guelph 6, Knights 3: The short-handed Knights surrendered four straight goals late in the game to be snuffed by the Storm.

Dec. 17: Knights 3 at Sarnia 2: Rob Drummond buried shootout winner as Steve Mason returned from Canadian world junior tryouts to give London a boost.

Dec. 29: Barrie 4, Knights 3: London blew a two-goal third-period lead and dropped fifth straight at home ice in a shootout loss to Colts.

Dec. 31: Knights 1 at Sarnia 2: Justin DiBenedetto scored early third-period winner and goalie Parker VanBuskirk held off late London charge.

Jan. 1: Knights 6, Sarnia 5: Two rare goals from defenceman Scott Aarssen helped London win its first home game in six tries.

Jan. 4: Knights 6 at Peterborough 4: Josh Beaulieu exploded for a career game with five goals to beat the Petes all by himself.

Jan. 5: Plymouth 3, Knights 0: The Whalers hand London its second shutout loss of the season and mark the second time in a year they've blanked the Knights on their home ice.

Jan. 7: Knights 4 at Saginaw 2: World junior gold medallist Sam Gagner posted four points in a triumphant OHL return.

Jan. 11: Knights 5, Oshawa 4: Sergei Kostitsyn (four points) and Steve Mason (35 saves) star as London wins shootout during first visit to new General Motors Centre.

Jan. 12: Knights 5, Erie 3: Sergei Kostitsyn added five more points, giving him nine in two games since playing for Belarus at world juniors.

Jan. 14: Knights 5 at Windsor 1: Justin Taylor, who came to his hometown team in a trade with Kingston, scored his first OHL goal as the Knights beat another Londoner -- Spits goalie Matt Hackett.

Jan. 19: Belleville 3, Knights 1: Rookie goalie Edward Pasquale stood on his head for the Bulls in a 35-save effort.

Jan. 20: Knights 5 at Sault Ste. Marie 4: Pat Kane posted four points as the Knights scored four times in the second period to tame the Soo.

Jan. 21: Knights 10 at Sudbury 5: London scored seven power-play goals and had a 4-0 lead before the game was 10 minutes old.

Jan. 26: Knights 6, Toronto 0: Steve Mason recorded first OHL shutout with 37-save performance.

Jan. 27: Knights 8, Owen Sound 2: On the night Bobby Ryan became the Attack's all-time points leader, Pat Kane stole the show in big blowout win.

Jan. 28: Knights 4, Sault Ste. Marie 3: Sam Gagner tied the game with a controversial third-period tally, then won it in the shootout.

Feb. 1: Knights 7, Guelph 6: Rob Drummond struck for third-period winner in rare goal-fest against defensive Guelph team.

Feb. 2: Knights 6, Sarnia 5: Pat Kane became second London rookie to post 100 points behind Dennis Maruk and Sergei Kostitsyn proved the overtime hero again.

Feb. 3: Knights 3 at Plymouth 7: The Whalers win the season series against London with another convincing beat-down of the Knights.

Feb. 8: Knights 4 at Guelph 3: Pat Kane convinced Storm coach he's NHL-ready with two big-time goals, one to force overtime and the other to win it.

Feb. 9: Knights 8, Brampton 6: Sergei Kostitsyn's three goals made the difference and Sam Gagner joins Pat Kane in London's 100-point rookie club.

Feb. 11: Knights 8 at Erie 3: Pat Kane scored his 50th goal and Sergei Kostitsyn racked up five points in another score-fest in Pennsylvania.

Feb. 16: Knights 5, Windsor 4: Pat Kane switched his stick and bagged overtime winner over Spits.

Feb. 17: Knights 5, Kingston 2: David Meckler potted four goals in a dominant performance against the Frontenacs.

Feb. 20: Knights 4 at Kitchener 3: Adam Perry scored winner in the first shootout ever played at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

Feb. 23: Knights 4, Sault Ste. Marie 3: Sam Gagner returned from injury, picked up four points and scored overtime winner to hand 'Hounds their sixth straight one-goal loss to London.

Feb. 24: Knights 3 at Owen Sound 6: Wayne Simmonds' three points helped the Attack snap London's seven-game win streak.

March 2: Knights 3 at Ottawa 1: Bad weather forced London to leave for its road trip early and the Knights struck early for the game's first three goals.

March 3: Knights 4 at Belleville 3: Sergei Kostitsyn scored breakaway winner with three minutes left for come-from-behind victory.

March 4: Knights 6 at Kingston 2: Pat Kane fought back from strep throat to post a five-point game.

March 8: Kitchener 4, Knights 1: Intent on revenge, the Knights focused more on trying to beat up Rangers defenceman Jakub Kindl than winning and paid the price.

March 9: Knights 3 at Guelph 0: Steve Mason made 33 saves for his second shutout in tidy victory over the Storm.

March 11: Knights 7 at Owen Sound 6: London reached 100 points for an OHL-record fourth straight season and Steve Mason kicked aside 59 shots in shootout win.

March 16: Knights 9, Erie 3: Pat Kane scored four and topped the 60-goal mark while Steve Mason became the OHL's win king with his 45th victory of the season.

March 17: Knights 6, Erie 4: Adam Perry buried three goals, the Knights set the OHL road record with a 29th win and wrapped up their fourth straight league title.


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