Knights' rivalry with IceDogs getting heated

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

It sticks out like a big red zit just before your big date, like a half-shaved moustache or a chocolate stain on your white pants.

17-0-1-0.

That's the London Knights' record going into their Ontario Hockey League game tomorrow night against the Mississauga IceDogs.

Almost perfect.

That "1" is courtesy of those same IceDogs. On Oct. 22 the Knights were chasing an OHL record of 11 wins from the start of a season. They went into the game at the John Labatt Centre having won nine. The game ended in a 3-3 tie, thanks to a goal with little more than a minute left by Patrick O'Sullivan. The Knights have since won seven in succession. That's 35 out of a possible 36 points.

They are now chasing the Canadian Hockey League record for being undefeated from the start of a season. That belongs to the Western league's Brandon Wheat Kings, who went 29 games without losing in 1978-79. The Wheat Kings had 24 wins and five ties.

It's not really a huge deal. Any other team would kill to be in that position. But you can bet the Knights' failure to win that one game still bugs them.

Which is why tomorrow night's game in Mississauga should be somewhat entertaining. There will be a measure of payback in the wind in what has become a heated rivalry since the IceDogs and Knights became trading partners in the Rob Schremp and Kyle Quincey deal.

And even if no one is about to say anything to stoke the fire, be sure the IceDogs are just as anxious to get a crack at halting another streak as the Knights are about paying them back for stopping the one earlier in the season.

"It was a hard-fought game last time, no question," IceDogs coach Greg Gilbert said yesterday. "I don't expect anything different in this game. Both teams battled until the very end. It would have been nice to win. It's one of those games that players love to play in and coaches love to coach in."

You aren't going to get much else other than the standard stuff out of Gilbert. Many people believe the IceDogs are going to be the best team in the Eastern Conference and will repeat as conference champions, that they will get stronger because they have an owner in Mario Forgione who doesn't mind making moves and because Gilbert is a fine coach.

"We are a much younger team than we were last year but we do have a little more depth," Gilbert said.

They got deeper by making a couple of trades, the big one being with the Sarnia Sting which brought three players to Mississauga, including Daniel Carcillo and John Hecimovic. Carcillo won't be in the lineup tomorrow.

Gilbert acknowledges the record might provide extra incentive to his club.

"I think that's going to be in the backs of our guys' minds," he said. "But you try to prepare game in and game out the best that you can. We know London's record and (the players) know what they have to do to succeed against them."

Gilbert didn't go to watch the Knights beat Toronto St. Michael's 4-0 Sunday in Toronto, but he did watch the game on television.

What he saw was something most teams have seen, a confident Knights club that believes it can win every game. The Knights took advantage of the offensive chances they had and after they got ahead proceeded to throw a blanket on the opposition in a small rink most teams have trouble playing in.

The Knights can lull you to sleep before suddenly exploding offensively, leaving you wondering what happened and how it happened so quickly.

And what would a column about the IceDogs be without the ongoing rumour about Jeff Carter of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds heading to Mississauga?

"As for the rumblings, that's news to me," Gilbert said. "It's interesting to hear. I don't read many of the papers because a lot of the stuff in there is opinions and rumours. I don't put much weight in that stuff."

This is the last time these teams meet in the regular season, adding interest to a game that's already more interesting than most.


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