Knights meet Greyhounds

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:11 AM ET

The London Knights will meet the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the playoffs for the second straight season.

The OHL regular-season champion Knights, who completed a four-game sweep of the Owen Sound Attack on Thursday, will play the fifth-seeded 'Hounds -- mild upset winners in six games over fourth-ranked Saginaw -- in a best-of-seven Western conference semifinal series expected to start Thursday night at the John Labatt Centre. The Sault won 4-3 in overtime last night.

Plymouth and Kitchener, who swept Guelph and Sarnia respectively, will meet in the other conference semifinal.

London won each of its four regular-season meetings with Sault Ste. Marie by one goal, including two shootout victories. Dating back to the final two games of an opening-round series sweep last year, the Knights have won six straight one-goal games over the Greyhounds.

There is no shortage of puck plot lines to follow over the next two weeks. Talented Sault goalie Kyle Gajewski, a 20-year-old Londoner, has never won an OHL game in his hometown rink.

'Hounds coach Craig Hartsburg, a Stratford native, served as bench boss for this year's gold medal-winning Canadian world junior hockey team that included London forward Sam Gagner. Knights goalie Steve Mason attended tryouts for the team but was cut by Hartsburg largely because he had suffered "concussion-like symptoms" in his last OHL game at Windsor before leaving for the Calgary camp.

Pumped-up Soo fans are looking for revenge on London after Knights star David Bolland closed the 57-year-old Sault Memorial Gardens last spring with an overtime goal in the final OHL played at the old barn. The current Chicago Blackhawks farmhand quipped afterwards that the city was likely to put up a portrait of him on a wall of the facility before taking the wrecking ball to the rink.

Sault Ste. Marie has a new downtown rink -- the 5,000-seat Steelback Centre -- and the Greyhounds have celebrated their first season there by winning a first playoff round since 2000. In that time, London has won 12 playoff rounds, an OHL championship and a Memorial Cup on its home ice in 2005.

Before last season, London and Sault Ste. Marie met in the OHL playoffs once before -- the Wayne Maxner-coached Knights took a six-game series over Londoner Don Boyd's Greyhounds in 1987-88.


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