Put your hand up if you saw this one coming.
In a series that was being hyped as quite possibly the greatest showdown in OHL history turned out to be a complete flopping disappointment for the Erie Otters.
The London Knights rode the coattails of their Big 3 as Christian Dvorak had a goal with a pair of helpers, Matt Tkachuk added a goal and assist and Mitch Marner had a helper and potted an empty netter to give London a 5-1 win over their Midwest division rivals – in a surprising sweep of the best of seven conference final.
That’s nine straight playoff wins, along with two straight series sweeps of some of the best teams in the OHL and as a result the London Knights are off to the OHL Championship for a shot at the J. Ross Robertson Cup.
Given London’s overall success this regular season, it wasn’t exactly unexpected of this team to go deep this post season – but what must have been unexpected is the rate at which they’re not only beating but dismantling top tier squads.
Knights head coach Dale Hunter certainly didn’t downplay his opponents despite the surprising outcome.
“The caliber of competition we had with Erie, they’re a good team,” Hunter said.
“They’re built like us – they’ve got great scoring, good goaltending and solid D and good role players. If at the start of the series you said it was four-nothing, I would have said there’s not a hope in hell.”
A rare smile struck Hunter’s face as he retracted – “Oops, hope in heck.”
There would have been no hope in heck were it not for goalie Tyler Parsons who continued his stellar playoff run stopping 27 shots for London as the Otters just didn’t have a response to the Knight’s high-powered offense.
“It feels great (winning),” Parsons said. “The guys played great in front of me – especially our forwards shutting down their top line and our D’s always great, we limited their scoring chances so we played great all around.”
Parsons win not only came on the heels of a back to back but was also his ninth straight win since losing to Owen Sound in round 1.
The sweep also exacted a bit of revenge for London – who were ousted by Connor McDavid’s Otters with ease in last years second round and while Parsons and Hunter were all smiles – the feeling was counter to that for Erie head coach Kris Knoblauch and captain Dylan Strome.
“We lost to a very good team,” Knoblauch said. “The London Knights are very deep and very well coached so it’s not that we should be too disappointed.”
An emotional Strome, who went goalless in the series – fought tears in the post game for what was likely his final career OHL game.
“They’re a heck of a team,” Strome said. “They played well, I think it felt like every time we had a chance we couldn’t bury and every time they got a chance they seemed to find the back door.”
“I guess it’s kind of the way the series went and obviously our third go round in the conference finals and it feels a lot like that first year so it’s frustrating but gotta give a lot of credit to London – they’re a heck of a hockey team and should be a force to be reckoned with.”
Erie outshot London in all four games but despite that were outscored by a 23-7 margin and so – here the Knights stand; much sooner than expected – the 2015/16 Wayne Gretzky Trophy Champions.
— XFM Sports (@SportsXFM) April 28, 2016
Game 1 takes place Monday at 7PM at the Gardens.