Knights relish home 'cooking'

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The London Knights are looking forward to being cheered again.

After playing -- and winning -- their last eight games on the road, the Knights are eager to hear some positive reinforcement tonight in their first faceoff at the John Labatt Centre since a 4-1 win over the Peterborough Petes on Feb. 17.

"It's a relief to be back on home ice," Knights captain Dylan Hunter said. "It'll be nice to hear our crowd again.

"Our booster club did a great job on the road trip -- they were louder than anybody in the rink -- but you always appreciate that advantage of being at home and having the crowd on your side."

By winning in Peterborough last Thursday, London carries the OHL's best home record (25-3-1-1) into its game tonight against the Owen Sound Attack.

The Knights, winners of 10 straight games, feel last week's successful swing through eastern Ontario energized them more than it exhausted them.

"You go into Belleville and they're talking about how beating us last year was the highlight of their season," Hunter said.

"It's still satisfying to go into different towns and they're writing stories and talking to you. No matter what, everyone wants to beat the defending Memorial Cup champs and that helped us (on the trip). We said we're going to show them and it made us work even harder.

"When it's the third period and you're down and tired, you think about the teams that want to knock you off and it gives you energy. All of a sudden, all those sprints and skating you do in practice are nothing (compared) to getting the win."

With 46 wins and six regular-season games to go, London is trying to become the second team in Canadian Hockey League history to win 50 times in three consecutive years. The Western Hockey League's Kamloops Blazers pulled off the feat from 1989 to '92.

"It's been a winning atmosphere ever since I've been here and it makes it that much more fun," London third-year forward Josh Beaulieu said. "You meet a great group of guys and you want to hang out with each other away from the rink, too.

"Getting 50 wins is a goal, but we're not going to stop playing if we don't get there."

London might need 50 wins to shake the Kitchener Rangers and sew up the Western Conference title. There's a feeling they would like to do it before next Saturday's long road trip to Erie to face the Otters.

"Last year, we were able to rest some guys on the final weekend of the season," Hunter said. "We had a trip to Sault Ste. Marie and a few of us got to stay behind.

"If it doesn't happen this year, that's fine, too. We all like to play every game."

London and OHL scoring leader Rob Schremp will likely need to play all his remaining games in an effort to win the CHL points title. His 135 points are two behind Alex Radulov of the Quebec Remparts.

Schremp and Bolland are also in a battle for the league's goal-scoring crown with Owen Sound's Mike Angelidis, who has 52 to top the circuit.

"Some of our guys have some personal goals to reach and we want to get them there," Hunter said.

Owen Sound star forward Bobby Ryan, the second pick in the NHL draft behind Sidney Crosby last summer, will play his first game since signing a three-year contract with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks this week.

London recalled defenceman Corbin Crawford yesterday from the Wellington Dukes of the Provincial Junior A Hockey League. The Dukes lost their first-round playoff series to Port Hope.

KNIGHTWATCH

Tonight: vs. Owen Sound, 7:30 p.m., John Labatt Centre

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

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


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