A team for the ages

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

For 40 years, London has been a junior hockey town.

Today, it's THE junior hockey town in Canada, the envy of 55 other teams.

The London Knights are a team for the ages -- perhaps all-time -- after completing a remarkable season with a 4-0 victory over the Rimouski Oceanic in last night's Memorial Cup championship game.

The sellout crowd of 8,905 at the John Labatt Centre saw the Knights put a cap on a 90-game season that leaves them with 79-9-2 record.

No. 1 in the Canadian Hockey League and No. 1 in the hearts of the fans who waited so many years to see the Memorial Cup presented to a Knights captain.

Danny Syvret had the honours.

"Greatest? I don't know about that," Syvret said as he stood at centre ice, answering reporters' questions whether this is the greatest junior team. "This year we are. This year we're No. 1. I don't think I'll ever play on a team like this."

The Knights boldly stated they wanted to meet the Oceanic in the final and went where no team had gone this season -- keeping Sidney Crosby off the scoresheet.

Brandon Prust, Trevor Kell and Dylan Hunter, usually on the power play, were assigned to the big line of Crosby, Dany Roussin and Marc-Antoine Pouliot.

The Knights played Crosby tough and frustration set in.

"There's a lot of pressure on him to succeed and do well and when we held him off the scoresheet, I think it got to him," Syvret said.

"We were all over him every shift, tugging at him, giving him a little punch in the face," Dylan Hunter said. "They were losing and he kind of lost his cool. Welcome to the House of Green."

The Oceanic were just as tough on the Knights Corey Perry, named the top player in the tournament after getting top honours in the OHL regular season and playoffs.

Oceanic winger Eric Neilson clothes-lined Perry 2 1/2 minutes into the game, but he carried on.

"We're very proud of him to go out there and finish the last two periods and play the way he did," Rob Schremp said of Perry. "We were sitting on the bench and he asked what the score was, it was that bad."

Danny Fritsche scored the first goal at 3:45 of the first period as the Knights enjoyed a two-man advantage.

Defenceman Bryan Rodney made it 2-0 at the 17-minute mark, Schremp and Fritsche assisting.

David Bolland popped in London's third goal on a power-play at 2:48 of the second period, Fritsche drawing another assist for a three-point game.

Schremp completed the scoring at 2:34 of the third period, his first goal of the tournament, with Perry assisting.

"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, especially with the start we had to the season (the 31-game unbeaten streak) and we never looked back," Perry said.

But the talk continued how the Knights shut down Crosby.

"We couldn't take runs at him," Syvret said. "We had to stay in position. If you take runs at him, he'll only find one of his wingers who can put the puck in the net.

"He's very skilled and he's very smart and he can pick you apart if you take a run at him."

Schremp was amazed.

"I knew Prustie, Keller and Dylan were going to shut him down pretty good, but I never thought they would shut him down with nothing.

"He's the best offensive threat in the country and maybe even the world and they really shut him down tonight and that's awesome."

After the game, before the dressing room doors were opened to the media, Knights coach Dale Hunter addressed his players.

As he was about to leave, he said: "I've got a present for you guys. I'm never wearing this again," and with that, he tossed his lucky tan sport jacket in the middle of the floor.

The players beat it to death.

"Thank God, finally that thing is done," said his son, Dylan. "That's 90 games right there. The team will have to chip in because he won't buy a new one. He doesn't like spending money on those kind of things."

Dylan said the whole season was a family affair, literally and figuratively.

"I just wanted to win for my family. My mom was the one waking up at six in the morning driving me when dad was at hockey.

"And we won it for the guy next to us. Rob Schremp out there blocking shots. You don't see that every day. Everyone had a role and everyone checked their egos at the door and that's why we won."

"I played 19 years (in the NHL) and I never won a Stanley Cup and I could never do this, celebrate on the ice," Dale Hunter said.

"I just hope the kids enjoy it because they played their game and they believed in themselves and I congratulate them because they're the ones who sacrificed."


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