With some help and a victory of their own, the London Knights can punch their ticket to the 2013 Ontario Hockey League post-season as early as Thursday night.
The Knights, who lead the OHL with 81 points through 51 games and have had playoff tickets on sale since Jan. 19, welcome the Sarnia Sting to town on Thursday. The Windsor Spitfires, ninth in the Western Conference with 49 points through 51 games, also play that night.
If Windsor loses and London wins, the Spitfires mathematically cannot catch the Knights in the standings — even in the extremely unlikely scenario where Windsor wins out and London loses out.
This rosy reality won’t push the Knights into cruise control, says assistant coach Dylan Hunter. He knows better.
London’s 2005 team, which Hunter was an integral part of, was 38-2-2-0 going into a game on Jan. 19. One point would have sealed the deal on a playoff berth.
But, they dropped the contest in Belleville, 2-1, and followed it by getting drubbed the next night in Peterborough, 6-2.
“I remember that, because they weren’t happy at all,” said Hunter, shaking his head at how worked up the coaches were afterwards. “It humbles you.”
The star-studded lineup recovered fairly quickly, and eventually hoisted the Memorial Cup. Hunter would prefer to skip the drama this time around, though.
“As a coaching staff, we’re lucky (to have gone through a successful OHL title run last year). Guys who were 16, 17 last year are now 17, 18,” he said.
The 2011-12 squad clinched a playoff spot on Feb. 12, locked up the division title on March 8, then claimed first overall on the last day of the regular season, March 17.
Justin Sefton, one of four new faces on London’s backend this season, says the post-season is “in the back of our heads, but everyone shows up everyday and goes to work.”
Sefton was in the doghouse last Friday, sitting on the bench for a large chunk of the game. With a lesson learned, the San Jose Sharks prospect played normal minutes the next night.
“It kind of called me out a little bit,” Sefton said, “(made me) bring my game up.”
2014 Memorial Cup bid update
The London Knights were putting the finishing touches on its 2014 Memorial Cup bid on Tuesday.
Other teams supposedly interested in throwing their hat into the ring in hopes of hosting the event are the Windsor Spitfires, Guelph Storm, and Barrie Colts. The submission deadline is next Monday.
Knights governor Trevor Whiffen says $10 million to $14 million in spinoffs was generated when London hosted the national championship nine years ago.
Although a nine-year gap between events is relatively small and will draw criticism, the cities of Montreal and Portland, Ore., have managed to host a pair of Cups each over three-year periods in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively.