Knights on the mark

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

KITCHENER -- A 13-hour bus ride contributed to the end of the Brandon Wheat Kings' record-setting run back in 1978-79.

The London Knights yesterday weren't about to let a one-hour drive to Kitchener foil theirs.

The Knights drove head-on into the Canadian Hockey League record book with a 5-3 victory over the Kitchener Rangers last night before a sellout crowd of 6,481 at Memorial Auditorium.

It was their 29th consecutive game without a loss, giving them a share of the CHL record for the longest undefeated streak in history.

The Knights are 28-0-1 and can push the Wheat Kings out of the picture with a win or a tie against the Guelph Storm tomorrow night at the John Labatt Centre.

Ironically, the Knights' last loss was against the Storm on April 26 in Game 7 of the OHL Western Conference final.

"To play in a situation like this, a lot of people want to see you fail, so definitely it's pressure," Knights coach Dale Hunter told a packed postgame news conference.

"And you saw the way we handled it today.

"It'll be Game 7 again. We'll be ready for them."

The Wheat Kings were 24-0-5 before experiencing their first loss (9-4) on Dec. 13, 1978, in Edmonton after making the overnight trip from Brandon, Man., following an exhibition game against the Moscow Selects the previous night.

It was also the 18th straight win by the Knights, moving them into second in the OHL record book for the longest winning streak.

The 1983-84 Kitchener Rangers won 25 in a row.

"This just kept growing," Hunter said of the Knights' history-making run.

"It's meant a lot to the kids and us (management), too, but it's a credit to the kids. I played a long time (19 years in the NHL) and I never came close to something like this."

Defenceman Bryan Rodney, who scored the first goal 1:47 into the game, has yet to experience the agony of defeat with the Knights' green and gold, only the thrill of victory -- and one tie.

Rodney was traded to London from Kingston just before the season began.

"The word is 'indescribable,' " said the 20-year-old Londoner.

"When I got a chance to come here, I was pretty excited. I had some good years in Ottawa (going to the Memorial Cup as a rookie) and Kingston, but this . . . ."

The Knights lose Corey Perry, David Bolland and Danny Syvret to the Canadian junior selection camp and won't have them when they play the Rangers at the JLC on Sunday.

Then Rob Schremp joins the U.S. team next week.

That could mean curtains for the streak.

"As a team, we're extremely proud of the four guys being asked to play for their country," said Rodney, who played one of his best games in a Knights uniform.

"It's going to be time for some of the guys who have a smaller role to pick up their socks and do a better job."

Perry put the Knights ahead 2-0 at 9:26 with the teams four aside on one of the prettiest passing plays you'll see.

Schremp carried the puck across the blue-line. Taking a Ranger defender with him cross-ice, he hung onto the puck until he almost reached the sideboards, then fed Perry, who was open on the far side.

Perry, the OHL scoring leader, had that goal and an assist to give him 63 points.

Kitchener rookie Mike Duco scored his 13th of the season with 1:25 remaining in the first period, launching a hail of 5,096 stuffed animals onto the ice on the Rangers' annual Teddy Bear Toss Night.

The Knights' masterful power play accounted for their third goal at 11:09 of the second period. They worked the puck around the Kitchener end with Schremp sinking the shot for his 25th of the season, tying him with Erie's Geoff Platt for the league lead.

Rookie Kelly Thomson made it 4-1 London at 2:55 of the third. David Clarkson got one back for Kitchener at 6:44, then Jordan Foreman scored at 11:03 for a 5-2 London lead.

Adam Keefe pulled the Rangers back to within two again at the 13-minute mark.

Defenceman Ryan Pottruff, who suffered a broken leg during the Knights' first preseason game, picked a fine night to make his return. "If we lose, it's my fault. But there was no real pressure on me."

Perry's thoughts had turned to tomorrow. "It'll be just another game, just another day. . . . But it is pretty unbelievable."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 5, Rangers 3

London goals: Bryan Rodney, Corey Perry, Rob Schremp, Kelly Thomson, Jordan Foreman

Kitchener goals: Mike Duco, David Clarkson, Adam Keefe

Next: The Knights play the Guelph Storm tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre at 7:30 p.m. It's the annual Teddy Bear Toss. The game is sold out but will be telecast on Rogers Sportsnet.


Videos

Photos