IceDogs not lying down for Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

How appropriate that the team that may have the best chance of knocking off the London Knights will be coming to the John Labatt Centre tomorrow night, stronger than ever.

As the Knights dominate Ontario Hockey League headlines with their 10-win, no-loss start, the Mississauga IceDogs have been flying under the radar screen.

The 'Dogs have played nine games, winning six. They made the OHL final last season against the Guelph Storm. So while the East may not be the stronger of the two conferences, the team was still competitive last year.

Mississauga, whose stats this season are comparable in many areas to London's, has served notice it isn't about to settle for second best. On Tuesday, it acquired arguably the Sarnia Sting's two best players -- John Hecimovic and Daniel Carcillo -- in a six-player deal.

With the Knights headed to the Memorial Cup as host, the IceDogs have made it clear they intend to be the other team from the OHL in the tournament.

The trade means offensive depth and experience for the 'Dogs. They have made themselves the best team in the East and now believe they can challenge for the OHL title.

As for the Sting, who haven't had the best start, it could be seen as the beginning of a complete overhaul.

"We are not an overly skilled team and we have trouble scoring goals," Sting general manager Alan Millar said. "We felt that somewhere along the road we've got to rebuild. With (Mathis) Olimb (a player in the Mississauga deal) and the two second-round picks, it keeps us competitive . . . ."

Olimb is the player the Sting received from the Knights for Drew Larman, a deal also made on Tuesday.

"Olimb was a key to this as well because he has good skills. And when you put all the players we got in trades, we got what we wanted," Millar said.

"With (Carcillo and Hecimovic), the history has been a little bit of a roller-coaster ride. It's not a knock against those two young men but they couldn't move forward, and neither could we as a team. This will give them a chance for a fresh start."

No doubt either Carcillo or Hecimovic would have looked good in a Knights uniform. But in December 2003, Sting coach Jeff Perry, who is now a Knights assistant coach, benched star players Hecimovic and Carcillo for undisciplined play. Perry was eventually fired.

"I talked a lot to (Knights general manager Mark Hunter) but his team is at a different level," said Millar.

"He knew the players were available. But I talked to (IceDogs owner) Mario Forgione 25 times on Monday and no one was able to compete with the return he offered."

The Knights have stated repeatedly they have no intention of backing into the Memorial Cup. They will do whatever it takes to win their first OHL title, so they don't have to listen to snide remarks about having the JLC to thank for their first Memorial Cup appearance.

With the season still in its infancy, it's going to take a month or so before the real picture takes shape.

But rest assured the Knights will be looking closely at other teams that may be loading up.

Toss in the Knights' hunt for a record-tying 11th win in succession since the season began and this game will be an attraction.

The IceDogs' aggressive empire-building, along with other teams that follow suit, will make for interesting times in the OHL.


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