Scherban cheers on former team

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 6:48 AM ET

WOODSTOCK -- The longest-serving London Knight is delighted his old team has become the talk of the OHL this season. Joel Scherban, the ex-Knights captain and franchise leader in games played, has been following his former club closely during its incredible 31-game unbeaten streak.

"It's just great to see what Mark and Dale (Hunter) have built there," the 24-year-old captain of the Lakehead University Thunderwolves said yesterday. "I'm following it as much as I can from Thunder Bay. I've been reading The Free Press every day (online) to see how things are going."

Although he is in the area this week, Scherban won't be able to visit the John Labatt Centre to watch the Knights play tomorrow against Sudbury or Saturday against Guelph.

Instead, the six-foot-two, 205-pounder will be pulling on a Team Canada jersey to help the Ontario university all-stars play the Belarus juniors in exhibition games tomorrow and Saturday night at Woodstock's Southwood Arena.

The games are part of a training camp, which started yesterday and runs to Sunday, to pick a provincial team that will head to Innsbruck in January to represent Canada at the World University Games.

Scherban's a shoo-in to crack the roster. He is the inspirational leader of the impressive Thunderwolves, the No. 3-ranked university team in the country.

"If I make it, it'll be a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Scherban said. "I've never been to Europe. I'm really looking forward to this."

The two exhibitions should make for some interesting and high-calibre hockey.

Belarus, en route to the world juniors in Grand Forks, N.D., boasts 19-year-old winger Andrei Kostsitsyn, a Montreal Canadiens pick currently with the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs and the 10th-overall selection in the 2003 NHL draft.

Former Knight Vadim Karaga, who scored 13 points at last year's world junior group B championship, is also expected to play for the Belarussians.

The most intriguing part of the contests might be watching how Scherban and the five other Thunderwolves interact as teammates with seven Western Mustangs. Canada coach and Western bench boss Clarke Singer loaded up the camp with 'Wolves and Mustangs, teams always battling for top spot in Ontario's Far West division.

The Lakehead-Western games are always a hot ticket in Thunder Bay and London and some of the best entertainment Ontario university sport offers.

"Craig (camp roommate Craig Kennedy, a Western rookie forward) and I were just talking about it; we could have 13 guys from our two teams playing together in Austria," Scherban said. "But we play each other so many times, it's two good teams and we have such a great rivalry, I don't think chemistry will be a problem."

Western's Mike D'Alessandro and Lakehead's Grant McCune, who have put on incredible playoff goaltending duels the past few years, both hope to be Canada's No. 1. The other Mustangs in camp are top scorer Mike Rice, Jamie Chamberlain, Londoner Ryan Held, Kennedy and defencemen Shawn Thompson and Matt Bannan. Lakehead also sent star forward Jeff Richards, Erik Lodge, Murray Magill and Peter Cava.

Singer has had to make some last-minute training camp roster changes. Concordia forward Yannick Noiseaux, York defenceman Marcus Smith and Trois-Rivieres defenceman Louis Mandeville are unavailable. Laurier defenceman Nick Vukovic has been added and Singer was hoping to add another forward last night.

"It's a short, intense training camp, but we also want to make it fun for these guys. They've just come off exams and most of them will be together quite a bit over the next month," Singer said. "One of the problems is we have no idea what kind of opposition we'll be facing at the Games or against Belarus. We hear Belarus is a skilled team, but may not be used to our hard-hitting style of play here."


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