Dennis sets sights on 100 career OHL wins

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:48 AM ET

Does this sound familiar?

When goaltender Wendell Young posted an OHL record 41 victories in 1982-83, his Kitchener Rangers were the defending Memorial Cup champions with enough talent left behind to boast another top team.

London Knights goalie Adam Dennis, who won his 42nd game this season on Sunday in Kingston to surpass Young's milestone, is also coming off a Memorial Cup-winning campaign for a squad that is gunning for its third straight 50-win season.

"From the start of the year, 40 wins was a goal of mine and it just happened that 41 was the league record," said Dennis, 21. "I'm glad to get it and I owe a lot to my teammates because I wouldn't have made it without them. Now, I want 100 career wins and I'm at 98 right now."

Dennis, who will be honoured by London before tomorrow night's home game against Owen Sound, should get four more starts this regular season. The Knights have six more games over the next two weekends and head coach Dale Hunter doesn't want his busy netminder to face three games in three days before the playoffs begin.

Twenty-three years ago, Young didn't get much rest, either.

The current assistant coach with the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves played 61 games for a Kitchener club that won 45 times before fizzling out in an OHL semifinal to Sault Ste. Marie.

Young wasn't sad to see his record fall. Until yesterday, he didn't know he held it.

"Back when it happened, nobody told me about it so I had no idea," the 42-year-old Halifax native said yesterday from Houston, where the Wolves play tonight.

"You figure someone is going to beat 41 wins. You look at a team like London last year winning (almost) 60 times and think some goalie is going to play enough games to get there. I just don't know if anyone had a defence like mine. In my three years in Kitchener, I had David Shaw, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens in front of me."

Dennis doesn't have those guys, but he holds the advantage of the new overtime and shootout rules, which dictate that no games shall end in a tie. Despite some aches and pains, he has remained healthy enough to play almost every game.

"Sure, the rules have helped," the Buffalo Sabres draft pick said. "We've done well in overtime and the shootout. I'm not surprised by our record this year. Maybe some people around the league are surprised by us, but we knew this team was going to be pretty good."

It's a remarkable feeling that Young knows almost better than anyone. The former Pittsburgh Penguin is the only man in hockey history to win all four major North American championships (NHL's Stanley Cup, AHL's Calder Cup, International Hockey League's Turner Cup, and the Memorial Cup).

"In Kitchener, we lost the Memorial Cup final my rookie year. We won it my second year and by the third season, we still had enough guys left over that there was a winning tradition," Young said.

There's a very good chance no one will ever match Young's achievement, since the IHL is defunct and its Turner Cup is no longer contested.

"For my retirement night (in 2001), the Wolves brought all four trophies onto the ice and the Turner Cup was the toughest to get," Young said. "When the IHL disbanded, Orlando (Solar Bears) were the last team to win it and they found the trophy in the office of the owner. They had to confiscate it and bring it to Chicago for the ceremony.

"Now, I believe it's in the Hockey Hall of Fame (in Toronto)."

KNIGHTWATCH

Tomorrow: vs. Owen Sound, 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre

Saturday: at Owen Sound, 7:30 p.m.

Sunday: vs. Erie, 6 p.m. at the JLC

Tickets: The Knights have released more tickets for their home games during the first two rounds of the OHL playoffs. To order, call (519) 681-0800, go online at www.londonknights.com or visit the Knights' retail store at the JLC.


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