Knights as good as it gets

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

For any other club in the Ontario Hockey League, it would be a dream season.

For the London Knights, it's just another season, period.

The Knights head into the final weekend of the OHL regular season ranked No. 1 in the Canadian Hockey League, a spot they had a stranglehold on in 2004-05 when they set numerous records.

This Knights team was not supposed to be prolific, let alone on top of the OHL heap. But with a record of 49-13-1-2 and 101 points, they're on the cusp of becoming the first OHL team to put up three 50-win seasons in a row.

"I don't know if our confidence is as high as it was last year, because that team was untouchable," said forward Rob Schremp, who leads the league in scoring with 139 points. "If we work hard, we have the team (to repeat as OHL champions) and it's up to us to do it."

The Knights are not getting by on skill alone. In the annual coaches poll released this week, centre Jordan Foreman was voted most underrated player in the Western Conference as well as best body checker, and finished third in the hardest worker category. And where Danny Syvret was the CHL defenceman of the year in 2005, the Knights now are getting by with defence by committee.

The savvy that remains with those Knights who hoisted the Memorial Cup last spring at the John Labatt Centre in London has been an advantage no other team has.

"We're never down and out," Schremp said. "We've had to battle hard to win some games. We've slid under the radar a bit but we always had first place as a goal. To get that is a real accomplishment."

MUDDY PLAYOFF PICTURE

Of the eight first-round series that will begin late next week, just one is set. The Peterborough Petes, who have sewn up first place in the Eastern Conference, will play the No. 8 Ottawa 67's in the first round. The tightest races involve the titles in the Central and West Divisions; in the Central, the Brampton Battalion is one point ahead of the Barrie Colts and each team has three games left; in the West, the Plymouth Whalers were two points ahead of the Saginaw Spirit, whom the Whalers played last night.

BRIEFLY

Mississauga IceDogs coach Greg Gilbert will guide Canada's under-18 team at the 2006 under-18 world championship in Sweden April 12-22. Kirk Muller, the coach of the Queen's University men's team, will be an assistant under Gilbert. Another assistant will be named ... Maple Leafs prospect Phil Oreskovic of the Battalion, picked 82nd overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft, was voted best body-checker and tied for best defensive defenceman in the Eastern Conference in the coaches poll.


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