Big Ben clocks Bruins

Maple Leafs forward Jeff O'Neill receives congratulations from teammates Tomas Kaberle and Jeremy...

Maple Leafs forward Jeff O'Neill receives congratulations from teammates Tomas Kaberle and Jeremy Williams after scoring a goal against the Bruins Tuesday night. (Toronto Sun/Fred Thornhill)

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

HAMILTON -- It was a night when 17,426 sets of eyes were riveted on Stumpy's ongoing quest to make the Maple Leafs.

But in the process of watching 42-year-old Steve Thomas attempt to weave together one last hurrah in blue and white, it was a kid 20 years his junior who caught the attention of the capacity crowd at Copps Coliseum, not to mention the Leaf brass.

Identified as a candidate for the fourth line by Pat Quinn earlier this week, Ben Ondrus, 22, showed that the praise offered by the Maple Leafs coach was well placed.

Playing on the fittingly named OPP Line with Nathan Perrott and John Pohl, Ondrus ripped home a goal and steamrolled a couple of unsuspecting Boston Bruins during the Maple Leafs' 5-0 pre-season victory last night.

While his first goal of the young exhibition season was impressive enough, his flattening of the Bruins' Jonathan Girard and P.J. Axelsson, both in the first period, showcased the sandpaper personality for which Quinn has a soft spot.

In other words, he's no Gentle Ben.

"We were going to give this kid a shot all along," Quinn said. "Last year our scouts said he was getting better and better and predicted he would soon be knocking on our door.

"Tonight he showed that. He certainly has not taken himself out of consideration. He really has a competitive edge, and I like that."

With few roster spots remaining up front, Ondrus has positioned himself to at least warrant some consideration against better-known names like Thomas, Clarke Wilm, Alexander Steen and Kyle Wellwood.

"I was kind of nervous at first," Ondrus, who collected 18 points and 137 penalty minutes for St. John's last season, said. "It was pretty exciting. I'm just trying to make the best of my opportunity."

The always upbeat Thomas, meanwhile, had a frustrating evening, firing three shots on goal but coming away empty-handed. Even his attempt to score during the post-game shootout was thwarted by Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas.

A number of other Leaf newcomers fared considerably better, however.

Defenceman Alexander Khavanov, making his debut in a Leafs uniform, collected three assists and looked very smooth.

Forward Jeff O'Neill received time at the point on the power play and responded by blistering home the game's first goal. And recently signed winger Mariusz Czerkawski got into the act as well, scoring late in the second period.

Khavanov chuckled when informed that his three-point-per-game pace would give him 246 over an 82 game schedule.

"Don't get too optimistic," he cautioned.


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