Fritsche finds his mark with Knights

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:43 AM ET

GUELPH -- More bad news for the rest of the OHL -- London Knights centre Dan Fritsche has hit his stride.

Fritsche scored a goal yesterday to complete a four-goal weekend as the Knights defeated the Guelph Storm 4-1 before a capacity crowd of 4,883 at the Guelph Sports and Entertainment Centre.

The Knights have won 10 in a row, their record has climbed to 48-4-2-0. They need just two more wins to become the first team in OHL history to record back-to-back 50-win seasons.

London finished first overall last season at 53-11-2-2. The club's 110 points were the most in league history. The record for wins is 54, set by the 1984-85 Soo Greyhounds.

The Knights are now 23-3-0-0 on the road and can tie the 1998-99 Ottawa 67's and 2003-04 Storm for most road wins with a victory Thursday in Brampton.

"The guys are aware of the records and we know it would be nice to accomplish as many as we can this year," said Fritsche, who joined the Knights Jan. 10 in a trade from the Sarnia Sting.

"We keep a close eye on the records because we're trying to make this the best year possible."

Fritsche, 19, a Columbus Blue Jackets second-round draft pick, wants to make this his best year in the OHL after 3 1/2 seasons with the Sting.

He experienced operations on both shoulders and never got it going with the Sting this season after the second surgery in September put him on the shelf until December.

After two games, he strained a shoulder, then was off to play for the U.S. at the world junior championship. He was never back on the ice in Sarnia before the trade.

Fritsche scored two goals Friday in a 5-1 win over Toronto St. Mike's, then a goal Saturday night in a 3-1 win in Saginaw, Mich.

He has eight goals in 15 games with London, but when he joined the Knights he had bronchitis and it took him three games to score his first goal.

"I won't use that as an excuse," Fritsche said yesterday.

"But definitely, when I first came here I was still getting over it from the world juniors and I couldn't get on a prescription until I got back."

He was prohibited under IIHF doping rules from taking any medication at the world junior championship. "I was still recovering for a little bit -- maybe a week -- but you know, this is just a weird game.

"Once you get a couple (goals), things start going your way and your confidence level gets up, and that's exactly what's going on with me now."

Fritsche, who scored 32 goals in 2002-03, his only full season with Sarnia, said he knew his scoring touch would return. The key was not to panic. "I wasn't worried about it. It happens to everybody."

He played yesterday with OHL scoring leader Corey Perry (98 points) and Dylan Hunter, second in league points (82). But as nice as it was to play with them, Fritsche said the Knights are so deep that any combination works for him.

"You don't worry about who you're playing with because you've got names down the list on the roster that are exciting to play with."

Knights coach Dale Hunter said Fritsche had earned his time on the top line.

"When he came here he hadn't been playing all year, just in the world juniors, so the first few games he had to get his legs going and he was sick, too," Hunter said.

"Now he's coming into what Danny Fritsche's all about -- the high speed, the scoring, playing hard, going hard to the net, and he's showing lots of skill.

"He's got his wind going now and his minutes. He's up to about 20 to 22 minutes a game and he's really more noticeable.

"His speed puts the other team back on their heels."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 4, Storm 1

London goals: Kelly Thomson, Rob Drummond, Dan Fritsche, Danny Syvret

Guelph goal: Ryan Callahan

Next: The Knights play in Brampton on Thursday. Sarnia is at the John Labatt Centre on Friday. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m.


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