Just not good enough

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:38 AM ET

WINDSOR -- The cold hard truth hit the London Knights about 9:58 p.m. last night.

No matter how many trades they made, how many holes they filled, how hard they tried, how hard they worked and how hard they played, they were just a little less talented than the Windsor Spitfires.

The Knights season ended last night when the Spitfires beat them 4-3, yet again in overtime, to take OHL Western Conference final 4-1.

Five games, five overtimes. Eric Wellwood stuffed home a rebound with little more than 10 minutes gone in overtime.

Where to begin talking about a series that had endless twists of fate and more plotlines than a television mini-series.

This was a series that will be remembered as one of the most exciting and emotionally draining the league has seen.

It only lasted five games but it was virtually impossible to separate the two teams.

The series could well have ended 4-1 in favour of the Knights and it would not have been an unfair result.

That's what will haunt this hockey club throughout the summer.

It will go down as a series the Knights could have won and that's going to hurt.

For much of the year the Knights were in the process of being shaped and remade. They had trouble finding an identity.

By the end of the Spitfire series, that identity was found and with any luck will provide them with a place to start next year.

They worked hard. They discovered the need to play disciplined hockey and they found a leader.

If he doesn't make the National Hockey League, Michael Del Zotto will be this team's leader.

"I'm as beat up emotionally as I am physically," the defenceman said. "I'm pretty tired right now.

And well he should be. He, along with John Carlson, couldn't have anything left. Their efforts were inspired.

Del Zotto will have a pretty good companion in Nazem Kadri, a kid who used this series to give the up-yours sign to those who dropped him in the rankings for the NHL draft.

But none of that meant much after last night's game.

Last night was filled with disappointment for a worn out Knights team.

It was a steppingstone win for the Spitfires. They beat a team that's learned how to win over the years. It was the kind of series win the Knights have put together for years a good team finding a way to win, a way to overcome adversity.

The Spitfires dominated the league this year. A year ahead of their target date of 2010, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.

The Spitfires will be very, very good next year as well.

For the Knights, the season was a case of keeping up with the Spits.

Mark Hunter knew that Windsor might be better next year than this year.

So he made the changes he needed to make this year.

The bold move was getting John Tavares. Bringing him along with Del Zotto was going to put them almost on an equal footing with the Spitfires. There was also the addition of Trevor Cann, Leigh Salters, Zac Rinaldo.

It almost worked.

But the Knights needed everything to go their way and it didn't.

They couldn't get the big goal when they needed and their goaltending didn't hold up.

"I don't know what else you want in a series," said Spitfires coach Bob Boughner. Now the question being asked is, was the trade worth it since it was made specifically to beat the Spitfires?

The Tavares trade was never going to guarantee success. It was made to put the Knights on the same competitive level as the Spitfires.

The Knights only enhanced their reputation of being a team that does whatever it has to do to win. When it comes to attracting players, you can't underestimate what that means.

They may also wind up with Del Zotto, one of the best defencemen in the league for another year.

How could it not have been a successful trade?

Without Tavares or Del Zotto, the Knights wouldn't have had any chance against the Spitfires.

The trade almost won them a series no one thought they would win four months ago.


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