OTTAWA -- In one corner of a surprisingly quiet victorious visitors dressing room at the Ottawa Civic Centre on Friday night, Rob Schremp cut away the tape that allows him to play on a wonky ankle for the London Knights.
On the other side of the room, defenceman Matt Pelech placed his helmet sporting a full face shield into his hockey bag. After blocking a puck with his mouth last month in Kitchener, the Calgary Flames first-round draft pick is facing the prospect of extreme dental work -- four or five root canals -- and his teeth are so sensitive he has to pour lukewarm water directly down his throat or the pain is severe.
As the remainder of the team rushed to board the bus and grab some rest before playing their eighth straight road game today in Kingston, there was a blur of black eyes, cut lips and sore bodies on players still hoping this hockey season will never end.
London captain Dylan Hunter realizes these Knights -- who have won all seven of the games they've played on this mammoth road trip -- are again putting together a memorable campaign.
"Last year, we went into every game knowing that we were going to win and that if we didn't, it was because we screwed up -- not because the other team was better than us," Hunter said. "The win in Peterborough (on Thursday) was huge because everyone had been talking about them as the best in the league this year and we've beaten them both times we've played them.
"We have that feeling again."
You'll take any X-factor you can get in the OHL this year because there are a half-dozen legitimate contenders for the league title and the lone berth to the Memorial Cup tournament in Moncton, N.B. The Knights aren't automatically in it like last year and know they're not going to steamroll through the playoffs like they did in 2004-05.
"We had a good team last year but you have to do the little things if you're going to win it this year," suspended head coach Dale Hunter said Friday night. "You need character on your team. It goes a long way when there are a lot of teams with talent."
The Hunters pointed out an example in veteran Trevor Kell, who is filling in on defence for the injured Frank Rediker. The 19-year-old Thunder Bay native returned to the lineup for the eastern Ontario swing after missing two games because his knee swelled to the size of a balloon last week.
"He's doing an exceptional job back there and he never played defence before in his life," Dylan Hunter said. "We have guys who are willing to do anything to help us win. We have needed everybody this year. When you're playing four games in five nights, you can't play Rob Schremp 35 minutes every time."
Schremp has moved into the starring role that Corey Perry performed last year and in a way, there's more pressure because the Knights depend on their top six forwards and the power-play unit for the bulk of their goals.
"I'm the go-to guy like Corey was last year," said Schremp, who has scored 51 times in 51 games. "Actually, last year, we had seven guys who were go-to guys and it was amazing. But this year, we've come together as a team. We have our own identity and we know what it takes to win."
London Knights forward David Bolland, who has 49 goals, says Schremp is simply a natural goal scorer who is complemented by a bunch of guys with a hungry attitude around the net.
It's what separated them from the Petes, who buzzed around the Knights net in two games but couldn't finish enough of their chances.
(London Knights record the past three seasons)
- 2005-06: 61 GP 45-13-1-2, 279 GF, 187 GA
- 2004-05: 68 GP 59-7-2, 310 GF, 125 GA
- 2003-04: 68 GP 53-11-2-2, 300 GF, 147 GA