Knights are ready to rock

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 11:29 AM ET

The London Knights are trying to keep their heads while all those about them are losing theirs.

That isn't easy to do.

There's 40 years of hockey failure to bury in this city,

40 years of watching someone else hoist a championship trophy, 40 years of surviving on hamburger while others dined on sirloin, 40 years of being the wallflowers while others not only danced to the music but called the tune.

London is starved for a junior hockey championship and the town is a little goofy.

A member of the media from outside London was somewhat astonished at how popular the Knights are.

What's it like being treated like rock stars? he asked Knight Marc Methot.

"I wouldn't say we are treated like rock stars but we're pretty close," Methot said. "We have great fans here. We're really enjoying it."

In the midst of this hockey insanity -- an insanity that will deepen as the Knights await either Ottawa 67's or Rimouski Oceanic to join them in the final tomorrow -- is a group of young hockey players who are preparing for the final in a most business-like fashion.

One would have expected some sort of emotional explosion by the Knights after their 5-2 win over the 67's Thursday, guaranteeing them a spot in the final.

But at the end of a long season where the demands off the ice were almost as draining as the demands on the ice, they deal with emotion as wasted energy.

The Knights suffer from tunnel vision. All they see is that Memorial Cup at the end of the tunnel. There will be lots of time for all kinds of emotion when business is completed.

"We've got to keep our game face on," Methot said. "It's the Memorial Cup. You can't take any game lightly. We're so close now. Only one game left. Hopefully everyone can perform well (tomorrow) and we'll get away with a win."

Rob Schremp: "It's not over. We've got one game to focus on. We've talked about this all year. We haven't won it yet."

Dylan Hunter: "We've got to think about hockey, block everything else out. You don't let (the hype) go to your head. You just go out and do your job."

You could run down the list of Knights players and get the same type of reaction. It's like a cold-blooded killer's stare. They have a cold-blooded approach to getting the job done. No doubt they are excited, no doubt they are emotional, but they aren't showing it.

Who do the Knights prefer to play?

They really don't care, but Methot thinks it will be Rimouski.

"I think they have a good shot," he said. "I'm hoping Rimouski makes it. It's nice to play outside teams like that and I think many people would like to see it."

But in the long run it doesn't make any difference to them.

Most would like to see the Knights and Oceanic link up in a sequel to the Knights 4-3 overtime win in the opener. That would provide a marquee matchup of the No. 1-ranked team against the No. 2-ranked team in the country along with the two top players in the country, Corey Perry and Sidney Crosby.

From an operational standpoint, Rimouski provides the Knights with a few more problems to deal with offensively. Crosby, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Dany Roussin are a dynamite unit.

Behind the blue-line, the Oceanic are an ongoing adventure. If they were a film, it would be Lost Behind the Blue-line. It's goaltender Cedric Desjardins, not Crosby, who is the main reason they've reached the semifinal. Desjardins, who looks like a moving brick wall, has been terrific.

The 67's, who have their own defensive problems, are counting on the Oceanic to give them so many chances that an upset is possible.

The Knights will be enjoying two days off, watching tonight as the Oceanic and 67's rip each other apart.

"The competition here is tough," said Knight Danny Syvret. "We helped ourselves out not having to play another game."

"The couple of days off is going to mean a lot," Hunter said. "We got a lot of guys feeling it a little bit. It's been a rough week and the time off is going to be unbelievable."

The importance of that time off can't be overemphasized -- 11 of the last 12 Memorial Cup winners have had a bye going into the final game. The only exception was Ottawa in 1999.

How will that time be used by the Knights? It will be spent preparing for the biggest game in their history, in a calm and organized manner.

After all, it's just business as usual.


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