Knights bite back

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:47 AM ET

Robbie Drummond and David Meckler wanted to remain roommates at their London apartment.

Steve Mason laid in bed and had a lengthy chat with himself.

Adam Perry stood up in the dressing room before Game 7 and addressed his teammates on the effort that was expected.

Then the London Knights exploded for four first-period goals and ripped the hearts out of the hard-working Soo Greyhounds with an 8-4 victory in the deciding game of the OHL Western Conference semifinal before 9,090 last night at the John Labatt Centre.

After dangerously squandering a three-game series lead, the Knights play on and the Greyhounds go home.

Top-seeded London, which has reached the conference final four straight seasons, will face the big, strong Plymouth Whalers in a series starting Thursday at the JLC.

"We didn't want to be done yet," said Drummond, the London captain who scored twice in the opening period onslaught. "I've been here a long time and as captain, I wanted to help lead the way. But we have a lot of leaders on this team. That showed through when we needed it and that's why we're still playing."

Drummond scored three goals in the Soo series since returning from a major concussion. His first won Game 3 in overtime to give London a stranglehold. His other two helped bail them out.

Drummond's roomie Meckler, who has 13 goals in 11 playoff games, scored twice in the third to help cement a nerve-wracking win in which the 'Hounds wouldn't stop coming back -- a microcosm of the entire series.

"As older guys, you want to go out and show the young guys the way," Meckler said. "This was do-or-die and we came out with the effort we needed. We didn't do it the last three games but we came through with it and hopefully, it's momentum going into the next round."

While Londoner Kyle Gajewski struggled mightily in the Soo net for the first time in the series, Mason regained the form that led to him being a runaway winner of the OHL's top goalie. A game after being yanked from the crease, he shut the door on a Soo comeback by turning aside hard-shooting defenceman Josh Godfrey with a series of acrobatic saves late in the third period.

"It was a long bus ride home (Sunday night) and I really had a long time to think about what were three below average games," Mason said. "Some people had given up on us but we had a strong start. Our veterans really came through for us and led the way. Adam Perry, who was here during the Memorial Cup year, stood up and said some words to remind us of what we needed to do."

Then, a lightning quick start by a veteran line of Drummond, Jordan Foreman and Josh Beaulieu put the Soo on their heels. The 'Hounds fought back but couldn't equalize.

"They came out with some energy that we hadn't seen all series," Soo head coach Craig Hartsburg said.

The Knights like to play a skill game but they knew sweat was going to be the deciding factor in Game 7. They provided it in ample measure and the poster boy was Drummond, who was sporting a broken front tooth from a Game 5 high stick.

"From everything I've learned being here, you have to play as a team," Drummond said. "That's the only way it works and the only way you can move on. We have a lot of individual skill but you can't win if everyone tries to do it themselves."

Everything that went wrong for London in the previous three games, they corrected. The once-deadly Knights power play provided three goals on just five chances after struggling to generate shots in the losses.

Top scorer Pat Kane, who struggled with wisdom teeth issues the past week, had five points and scored the Knights' second goal after stealing the puck behind the Soo net. He created his own offence on the forecheck -- a great sign he has spring back in his stride.

The London defence returned to nearly full strength with Kevin Montgomery back in action, which allowed Drummond to move back to forward.

GAME GLANCE

Knights 8, Greyhounds 4

Series: London wins best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal 4-3

London goals: Robbie Drummond (2), David Meckler (2), Pat Kane, Josh Beaulieu, Justin Taylor, Todd Perry

Sault Ste. Marie goals: Brad Good, Andrew Desjardins, David Kuchejda, Jiri Tlusty,

Next: The Knights face the Plymouth Whalers in the Western Conference final starting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.


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