SHAWINIGAN, Que. - There was a point in the 2011-12 season that the London Knights weren't sure whether to buy or sell at the Ontario Hockey League's trade deadline.
Their decision to add Austin Watson and Greg McKegg to their young team paid off, as the Knights not only won the OHL title, they were a goal away from taking the Memorial Cup. The Knights lost 2-1 in overtime to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Shawinigan Cataractes in the championship game on Sunday night.
"That's a heartbreaker," said Knights defenceman Scott Harrington. "We battled all night and came out really strong. We might have let up a little bit in the second period and gave them some momentum.
"All-in-all it was a fantastic season on our behalf and I'm really proud of all of our guys.
Knights coach Mark Hunter was pleased with the play of his team in the loss.
"We didn't give them much. In the second, I thought (Shawinigan) had a little bit better period and in the first I thought we did," Hunter said. "In the third, I thought we had better chances than them then in the overtime they had a couple better chances than we did."
The Knights entered the game having been off since beating Edmonton in their final round-robin game on Tuesday night and earning a direct berth in the tournament final.
Shawinigan, meanwhile, was forced to beat Edmonton in the tie-breaker on Thursday and Saint John in the semifinal on Friday to advance to Sunday's final ??? and that came after wrapping up the round robin on Wednesday night.
"We weren't really sure what to expect," Harrington said. "We knew they would be coming hard. We played well in the third period and overtime but that's just the way that it goes."
For the most part, they played their trap and counterattack game masterfully against Shawinigan, keeping the Cataractes to the outside and launching strikes of their own off turnovers.
The line of Watson with brothers Ryan and Matt Rupert was particularly dominant, but after their early goal, they either wasted their chances or were stopped by Shawinigan goaltender Gabriel Girard.
The Knights should have a number of players back next year, perhaps as many as 20, for another run at the Memorial Cup.
''I don't now if it's a character builder. It just hurts right now that we lost,'' Hunter said.