LONDON, ONT. -- For years, Markus Phillips despised the green and gold of the London Knights while playing for Owen Sound and Guelph.

"I played against them for four years, and countless times in this rink, and you can’t stand them," says Phillips, a defenceman with 262 games of OHL experience. "Now it’s like a love-hate thing and I'm happy to be here."

The overage defender was one of two key players acquired late last week just before the league's trade deadline. Fellow overager Jason Willms was brought in from Barrie.

"When I got the news I was super excited," says Willms. "As everyone knows London is one of the best organizations in the CHL and to be a part of this group and a winning team is very exciting."

Head Coach Dale Hunter felt it was important to acquire experienced talent at both forward and defence.

"It just gives the young guys some veteran help," says Hunter. "They are both hard workers who have been through the grind of the playffs so they can tell the young players what's going on."

Willms was Barrie's captain, and Phillips was playing a half-season of professional hockey when he was returned to the junior ranks.

They both come to a Knights team that is three points out of top spot in a congested Western Conference, with 28 games remaining.

The goal is to capture the number one seed in the west, and have home ice throughout the post-season.

"You hope you get it (the top seed) but you have to play good hockey, every night is going to be a battle," says Hunter.

" All the teams are pretty even, so you have to come to play every night."