Knights' goal to stamp team, season as great

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 2:16 PM ET

Say the London Knights don't win today.

How will history judge them?

Would they be allowed to put their stamp on the best season in major junior hockey without a Memorial Cup championship?

"We've had a good year. I don't think you can take that away from us," Knights captain Danny Syvret said yesterday.

The Knights go into today's final with an overall record of 78-9-2. Win or lose, their 90th game will be the one everyone talks about.

"We want to end on a high note and go out winning," Syvret said. "I think with all the hype that's been built up with us being No. 1 in the CHL from Day 1 and then having the streak and then running through the playoffs like we did, we have to win."

Rob Schremp said the fact the entire season is coming down to one game "forces you to play good.

"A one-game shootout is exciting for both teams, but we had such a great year and say it comes down to this one game and we have a crap game, that would be tough to take.

"If we don't win, we won't be seen as great as we could have been and in order to be satisfied in our minds we have to be the best team and win the Mem Cup and that would cap our year off."

Schremp paused, gave the question some more thought, then continued.

"To win would put a stamp on us as well -- they were the greatest team, they won the OHL, they won 59 (regular-season) games.

"But if we lose -- they had all these accomplishments but they didn't win the Memorial Cup.

"That would put a damper on it. That's why we want to go out and win it. We don't want to leave any doubt in anyone's mind."

Would the London fans accept anything less?

"A lot of fans have waited 40 years for a team like this to come along and I don't think we'll be a disappointment either way," Schremp said. "But far as the players are concerned, it would be a disappointment."

Assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu said it would be a shame for such a great year to end on a losing note.

"The whole season has been successful and we will always be remembered as one of the best Canadian junior hockey teams -- if we win or lose -- but I think if we win it's going to make it that much easier on the players," he said.

The pressures of a one-game shootout have taken down some great junior teams in the past, but Danny Fritsche said the Knights have been preparing for this game all season.

He, however, has a leg up on his teammates, having played 19 games in the NHL last season with the Columbus Blue Jackets and playing for the U.S. in two world junior championships.

He was a member of the stars and stripes that beat Canada in the 2005 gold-medal game.

"All the experience I've got has helped me for this one game," Fritsche said.

"The excitement and the adrenalin rush of being in the National Hockey League, the excitement of winning a gold medal at the world junior championship and being in that final game versus Canada, it's something that only happens once in a lifetime and it helps a lot that I know what to expect (today).

"Going into the championship game, it's so hard to keep the nerves down, but I think we've done a good job with our two days off (since clinching the bye on Thursday) in getting prepared and not too excited."

There's been talk here that the CHL may go with a Monday night final next year to give the semifinal winner a day's rest. Fritsche disagrees.

"An advantage we should have in going through as the first-place team in the round-robin is having the two days off and being rewarded for going through the round-robin undefeated," he said.


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