Knights denied 50-win season

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

Scott Niedermayer, Darryl Sydor and their old teammates from the Kamloops Blazers of 1989-92 can rest easy.

The London Knights dropped their final three games, including last night's 4-3 defeat to the Kitchener Rangers before 9,090 at the John Labatt Centre, and finished the regular season at 49 victories. That leaves those powerhouse Blazers as the only franchise in Canadian Hockey League history to win 50 games three straight seasons.

"It's disappointing -- you set records or you don't -- but, in the end, clinching first overall in the OHL was the most important thing for us this year," said London forward Rob Schremp, who scored twice to finish tied with teammate David Bolland for the OHL goal-scoring title at 57.

"We're not worried about going into the playoffs on three straight losses. We almost pulled that one out (last night) and we didn't have a full lineup for any of the three games. We didn't have our usual guys playing 35 minutes a game and were able to rest.

"We know what we have to do in the playoffs."

London opens its Memorial Cup championship defence with a first-round series against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds starting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the JLC.

Even in a meaningless contest, the London-Kitchener rivalry threatened to boil over at the final buzzer with a near brawl that had coaches Dale Hunter and Peter DeBoer keeping important members of their teams away from potential fisticuffs. The fireworks were almost lit when Kitchener tough guy Cory Konecny jumped onto London spark plug Jordan Foreman in the middle of a heated scrum.

"We hate them every bit as much as they hate us," Schremp said.

"That was ridiculus -- the sensible thing would've been for them to just skate off the ice," Schremp continued. "They didn't want any part of fighting during the game but then they want to fight us at the buzzer. We have someone breaking a stick over (London forward) Jamie VanderVeeken and we're not going to put up with that stuff. We challenged them during the game and they backed down."

Referees Pat Smola and Ian Smith issued no penalties for the postgame festivities and Kitchener forward Craig Voakes was relieved to hear it.

"Both teams have higher stakes coming in the playoffs and you don't want to see guys sitting out with suspensions," the St. Thomas native said. "It could've been bad but we were yanking guys out of there so there wouldn't be any penalties. We're just glad to go into the playoffs with the win, especially in here."

If you go by the math and not the 50-win milestone, London's three-year regular-season run is more impressive than Kamloops because Western Hockey League teams play four more games than OHL squads during a season. Over their respective three-year periods, the Knights were victorious in 161 of 204 contests while the Blazers won 157 of 216 games.

"This team achieved some great things," Bolland said.

Before the game, London honoured its three over-age players -- captain Dylan Hunter, goalie Adam Dennis and injured defenceman Frank Rediker -- and presented them with personalized jerseys encased in glass.

Hunter sat out for the second straight game and finished his five-year OHL career with 369 points, fifth on London's all-time list in a team-record 315 games.

GAME GLANCE

Rangers 4, Knights 3

Kitchener goals: Victor Oreskovich (2), Myles Applebaum, David Lomas

London goals: Rob Schremp (2), David Bolland

Next: The Knights open their playoff series against the Soo Greyhounds with home games on Thursday (7 p.m.) and Friday (7:30 p.m.) at the John Labatt Centre.


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