Chris DeSousa was packing for Barrie.
He was part of the big OHL deal that sent old Niagara IceDogs teammate Alex Pietrangelo to the Memorial Cup-contending Colts.
Then, the phone rang again.
“It was my agent Culley Curran,” the 19-year-old Mississauga native said. “He asked me, ‘How would you like to play in front of 9,000 fans?’
“Go to London? I said, ‘Sure. That sounds great.’”
Someone needs to tell him the truth.
It’s not always great fun to play on the biggest OHL stage.
Not when you blow a five-goal lead in the final 12 minutes like the Knights did in his debut Saturday night.
Not when you give up the tying goal with 0.4 seconds left in the third to St. Thomas native Greg McKegg.
Not when Knights fans are giving goalie Michael Hutchinson, the guy brought in to slam the door in these kinds of situations, the Bronx cheer after making the first stop in an overtime that should never have happened.
“Fortunately, that hasn’t happened to me too often here,” Hutchinson said with a wide grin. “That was the first time.”
He doesn’t want it to happen again.
Big Hutch managed to recover and make all three saves in the shootout. Nazem Kadri scored the lone goal by undressing Erie goalie Ramis Sadikov and the Knights escaped with a harrowing, messy 8-7 win before 8,960.
It was the same deke Kadri used in the New Year’s Eve game against the United States in Saskatoon.
“That was Naz’s textbook move,” Hutchinson said.
“We tried to tell (Sadikov about Kadri) but he’s so silky,” McKegg said. “Everyone in the building knew he was going to do it.”
Hutchinson, though, put all the Otter comeback blame on his big shoulders. He disregarded his team stopped playing in front of him while up 7-2.
“I let the guys down,” he said. “I have to be better than that. It was a breakdown of mental mistakes, mostly by me. I’m a veteran guy in this league and it shouldn’t happen.
“But we got the two points and that’s what’s important. I just have to refocus, play all 60 minutes and get ready for the next game.”
The Knights were cruising with the big lead. The Otters, who lost 7-2 in Kitchener Friday night, could’ve packed it in and chalked up a lost weekend.
Plus, they haven’t won in the JLC in eight years.
“It would’ve been nice to finish it out and get the win,” McKegg said. “It’s not easy to come in to the JLC and be down five and come back. I guess we’ll carry the momentum of our comeback forward into our next game.
And how about his stunning buzzer beater?
“I knew there was 10 seconds left when we came down the ice,” he said. “I just batted at the puck and got lucky. Maybe because it’s my home town, I don’t know.”
It was magical for the Otters.
It could've been tragic for the Knights.
Not a good showing in their last game before the OHL trade deadline today at noon.
Despite his deking skills, the market for Kadri grew cold on the weekend. U.S. world junior gold medalist Phil McRae, however, has drawn more interest from a couple of teams in the final push before rosters are set at noon today.
The Knights won’t look the same as they do right now.
DeSousa came over from Barrie for London fan favourite Zac Rinaldo yesterday.
He had waited a month-and-a-half for a move after walking out on the Niagara IceDogs following his fifth straight pointless game on Nov. 29.
DeSousa can put the puck in the net and can get gritty, too. He scored 33 times last year for Niagara and had 103 penalty minutes.
He had 10 goals and 27 points in 29 games this year before his self-imposed exile.
He drew three assists in his Knights debut.
Rinaldo had eight goals and 15 points in 34 games. He’s signed by the Flyers so he won’t be back next season.
DeSousa is hungry for a pro contract. If he doesn’t come back as an over-ager next year, the Knights get a third-round pick in 2013.
“I think of myself as a well-rounded player,” DeSousa said.
He played minor hockey with Michael D’Orazio and Phil Varone. He was invited to Boston Bruins camp and spent some time with Hutchinson.
During his OHL hiatus, he hunkered down in Port Stanley with fellow disgruntled Dog Jay Gilbert.
“I stayed at Jay’s house. It’s (Port Stanley) a nice place but pretty dead in the winter,” DeSousa joked. “We’d work out and then go on the ice, do some one-timers and a bag skate at the end.
“It wasn’t a lot of fun.”
Gilbert was dealt to Plymouth last week.
London GM Mark Hunter is gambling DeSousa will be back as an over-ager. He made the deal with that in mind.
“You could debate who’s the better player all day,” Hunter said. “We see Chris could give us another year-and-a-half vs. Zac and half a year.
“Did we want to trade Zac? No. He fed off the fans in the building. But I had to look at what we had for next year.”
Say this about Rinaldo. Every time he was on the ice in Knights garb, it was interesting.
Much like the first game the Knights played without him.