London Knights: Back in time: How did they ever make the playoffs in 2001?

The London Knights have qualified for the playoffs for 22 straight seasons.

The last time they missed was in 1999-2000. Their last game that year came on March 24. Joel Scherban and Tim Zafiris closed out the year with three points apiece in a 5-1 win over the Plymouth Whalers.

Only 45 days later a deal to sell the hockey team to Mark Hunter, Dale Hunter and Basil McRae closed and a new era for the franchise began.

In their first season London won games with a whole lot of rookies on the roster. They made it to the final week of the season still in contention to make the playoffs.

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But the Knights needed to win their final three games. And they needed the Kitchener Rangers to lose their last four.

If Kitchener earned even one point the Knights would miss the post-season for a second consecutive year.

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But the improbable happened. Somehow. Some way. It happened.

Guelph, Erie, Brampton all took turns topping the Rangers.

Meanwhile London reeled off back-to-back wins by beating Sarnia 5-2, thanks for four goals from Aaron Lobb, and then to Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., where they squeezed out a 6-5 victory over the Greyhounds. Jason Davies broke a 5-5 tie with exactly ten minutes to go in the third period.

That set things up for a Friday night at the London Ice House with one eye on the brand new Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre where the Storm were hosting Kitchener.

Even though the odds had been long It had all come down a simple scenarios. A win by the Knights and a loss by the Rangers would allow London to clinch the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Knights started fast and pumped three power play goals behind Owen Sound Attack goalie Cory Roberts and London simply held on from there. Owen Sound recorded nine shots in the second period and just seven in the third. London took a combined 13 through the final 40 minutes.

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In the end the scoreboard read 4-2 in favour of London. They had done it.

The Storm don’t usually go out of their way to do the Knights any favours but that night they did.

Guelph scored 33 seconds into the game and Kitchener found themselves chasing all game.

Future Knight Charlie Stephens finished off the scoring in a 5-2 Storm victory and the Knights were in.

And 22 seasons later they are still making the playoffs albeit in far less dramatic fashion.

It’s always much less stressful to clinch playoff spots in February, and even on occasion in January, but not much can  beat London’s run to the post-season in Mark and Dale Hunter’s first year.

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