Record ties bind OHLers

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

When London Knight John Tavares became the OHL's career goal king Sunday in Windsor, he broke a 33-year-old record.

But the 18-year-old didn't need to be told about the guy he usurped -- former Ottawa 67's star Peter Lee.

The pair met last spring. They even discussed the possibility of the record falling.

When hockey benchmarks change hands, it invariably links the player who set it and the player who lost it. When the two are familiar with each other or share parallel paths, it makes it more special.

Like Belleville's Cory Tanaka, who became the league's all-time leader in games played a couple of weeks ago. His 329th contest shot him ahead of Cody Thornton, who started his OHL career with -- you guessed it -- the Bulls.

Tanaka and Thornton faced each other, but just missed playing together. Tanaka went to Belleville from Plymouth in a 2005-06 trade, the season Thornton started his final junior stop in Sault Ste. Marie.

But the ironmen share this bit of intertwined fate: they have never been drafted by an NHL team though scouts had more chances to watch them than any other player.

Next up is big Windsor goalie Andrew Engelage. He has 45 victories and needs one win in this final week of the regular schedule to pass Steve Mason for the OHL single-season record.

Mason, of course, is now a star with the Columbus Blue Jackets but he shared Engelage's understated path to junior starter. Neither was the top goalie picked by their teams in the OHL draft.

Engelage was selected by Windsor in the 13th round in 2005, eight rounds after the Spits took current injured Guelph goalie Jake Fischer. Mason went to London the year before in the 11th round after the Knights took Jason Guy in the sixth.

In the small world of hockey, they all spent time together learning from the same crease philosophy. Engelage's Spits coach Bill Dark, a Londoner, worked summer camps together with Knights goalie guru Dave Rook. Now Mason is the NHL's best young goalie and Engelage is the OHL's most successful older one with league champion Windsor.

"Andrew is the most likable guy you'd ever want to meet," Dark said. "He's a leader in the room and because he has that respect, the guys always want to play well in front of him.

"Goalies on good teams often get overlooked. If he cost us games, we'd have more losses than (eight in regulation) but he hasn't done that.

"Sharing the record with Mason is proof he's been very consistent all year."

He's not the only goalie in the record books this season. Brampton's Thomas McCollum is the OHL's career shutout king with 16 and he passed another big U.S. stopper along the way -- former Knights goalie Gerald Coleman.

What else could they talk about if they were in the same dressing room?

A neat bit of Stanley Cup linkage. The Tampa Bay Lightning drafted Coleman in 2003, then won the Cup the following season. The Detroit Red Wings picked McCollum in the first round of the 2008 NHL draft right after celebrating another Cup win.

AROUND THE O

Tavares's OHL total of 215 goals and counting is impressive but not enough to rank him in the top 20 in the Canadian Hockey League record book. He'd need a fifth junior season for that. Mike Bossy, who played for Laval from 1972-77, had 309 goals before heading to the team that could get Tavares this summer -- the New York Islanders . . . Forget longterm planning and advance scouting. In the league's final week, there are still no playoff matchups officially set. The middle of the pack is that bunched up . . . The first pick in the 2009 OHL draft will go to either Sault Ste. Marie or Kingston. Right now, the Greyhounds are in the driver's seat. One OHL GM said there are five or six players in the running to go No. 1 . . . Windsor (26) and London (22) are the only teams in the league with 20 road wins . . . Oshawa's Brett Parnham needs to score twice in his final three games to ensure the Generals have a 50-goal man for the third straight season (Tavares in 2006-07, Brett MacLean last year) . . . The Owen Sound Attack's 14 combined overtime and shootout losses are an OHL single-season record, passing the 13 by Oshawa (six overtime, seven shootouts) in 2007-08.


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