Turn out the Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Robbie Drummond has a lifetime of memories in store from five years spent with the London Knights.

There's a Memorial Cup, two OHL final appearances, four regular-season titles and countless buddies.

But the outgoing Knights captain's final thoughts on his last game for his hometown team will be the lightning-quick leg pads of Plymouth goalie Michal Neuvirth, who swallowed up London's offence the way a mighty whale once gobbled up unlucky Jonah in the Old Testament days.

There were no crazy Sam Gagner dump-in goals this time as London fell 4-1 -- on the scoreboard and in games played -- to the OHL's Western Conference champion Plymouth Whalers before a less-than-capacity crowd of 9,000 last night at the John Labatt Centre.

London didn't win any of its three home games against Plymouth. These Knights finished as the best road team in OHL history, but the Whalers were much better at it in this series.

"It's very frustrating when you shoot and shoot and have nothing to show for it," Drummond said. "It's not that he (Neuvirth) stole the series, but he was very, very good. We peppered him (with 46 shots) and threw everything at him high and low, crashed the net, but he kept almost everything out.

"We just dug too deep a hole for ourselves. It's not easy to come back when you're down three games."

It's difficult to come back from two goals down against Plymouth, which broke London's back when its stout penalty-killing unit produced a short-handed, second-period goal on unlikely defensive hero Wes Cunningham's first score in 14 playoff games.

"I just saw (Andrew) Fournier with the puck and only one defenceman so I jumped up, took the pass and luckily, the shot went under him (London goalie Steve Mason)," the 20-year-old Dresden native and Chatham resident said.

"It was a tough game and a tough series against London and now we're looking ahead to the OHL final, and hopefully to win that," Cunningham said.

London only scored 10 goals against a big, bruising Plymouth team that becomes the favourite against the winner of the Sudbury-Belleville series. At 12-2, the Whalers can to match the 2004-05 champion Knights' record of 16 wins in 18 playoff games and if Neuvirth plays like he did, it'll happen.

"The Washington Capitals made a good pick with him," London head coach and former Cap Dale Hunter said. "He was good down low. We had our chances. I thought we bounced back from the short-handed goal. The kids worked hard all year and for the ones who'll be back, it's a good experience to get to the third round. They see there's a lot of good teams in this league and it's not easy to win every year."

A goalie is always a team's best penalty-killer and Neuvirth held London to one goal in 11 chances. The 18-year-old Czech was especially sharp when his team was down two men and erasing an early major penalty to Tom Sestito, who was tossed for boarding Pat Kane on a dangerous-looking check.

Plymouth finished with two power-play goals and ended the OHL careers of Drummond and defencemen Ryan Martinelli and Todd Perry.

"It's tough to realize this is my last game with the Knights," Drummond said. "I've been here five years and it goes by pretty quick. We had a great year here. We won the regular-season title and showed character in beating the Soo in seven games after losing three in a row. I think the Knights have a chance to be good again next year. Every year I've been here, Dale and Mark (Hunter) have put together a winning team."

Kane and Sam Gagner were named OHL rookie first-team all-stars and both are up for rookie of the year, which will be announced today. Sarnia's Steve Stamkos cracked the second team behind Gagner while Neuvirth was a second-team selection.

London's Jordan Shine sat the last four games because the OHL has yet to issue a number of games to his slashing match penalty on Plymouth defenceman Steve Whitely in Game 1.

London assistant coach Todd Bidner was in the building, but Knights GM Mark Hunter joined brother Dale and Dave Gagner behind the team bench.

"We were just trying to give them (Plymouth) a different look," Dale Hunter said. "He (Bidner) was up (in the suite) taking notes for us."

WHALERS 4, KNIGHTS 1

(Plymouth wins best-of-seven OHL Western Conference final 4-1)

Plymouth goals: Dan Collins (2), Tom Sestito, Wes Cunningham

London goal: Sergei Kostitsyn

Next: Plymouth moves on to the OHL final against the Sudbury-Belleville winner.


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