Knights brace to lose stars to world juniors

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:41 PM ET

In the next 10 days, London Knights sniper Rob Schremp will find out if he's being invited back to play for the U.S. entry at this year's world junior hockey championships in Vancouver.

Next month, Knights top scorer David Bolland will take off for the Canadian team's training camp and it's more than likely he'll stay on to play in the tournament.

The Knights aren't sure what's going to happen with top rookie forward and power play contributor Sergei Kostitsyn. Belarus, which will likely need the 18-year-old's services this time around, drops to the B Pool after finishing 10th last year in North Dakota.

But with the OHL's Western Conference jammed with contenders, the Knights have begun contemplating life without their top guns. They know they can't afford to lose ground in the standings and surrender wins, because it's going to be an uphill march after Christmas.

"We'll be losing two guys (Bolland and Schremp) who just aren't superstars on this team, but in the whole league," Knights captain Dylan Hunter said.

"We're going to need Adam (Dennis) to stand on his head and, hopefully, some of these young guys will pop a couple of goals for us. They've been in the league for 18 games now and should feel more comfortable playing here in front of 9,000 people every home game.

"It's going to be a key stretch for us."

The world junior tournament coincides with a tough stretch for London: at Guelph Dec. 28, a home-and-home with Sarnia on New Year's Eve and Day, at Kitchener Jan. 3 and home to Belleville Jan. 6.

"I'm not worried about it. All you can do is hope the kids play hard and that we get as many points as we can," coach Dale Hunter said. "Other teams usually lose a good player around that time, too. I think we've had some good tests so far this year."

Schremp, who was underused by the underachieving host American team last year, is looking forward to another shot at testing himself on the international stage.

"I had a good time last year and we're supposed to be one of the better teams this year," he said. "We have a lot of guys who are supposed to be coming back, so that's exciting. It's always an honour and a challenge to play against the best players in your age group."

Of course, the Knights would be a lot happier if, this Christmas, he was helping them play against less star-studded lineups in the OHL.

"It's going to be a big test for us," Dylan Hunter said.

"The young guys went through the stretch of losing their first four games and now we're going through a stretch where we're winning a lot.

"They've seen both sides and, hopefully, they'll have hated the losing enough to not want to do it again."


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