By finally shifting a personal monkey off his back last night, Rob Schremp helped shed an even larger one from the collective backs of the London Knights at the John Labatt Centre.
The Knights are starting to look like the Knights again.
After nine scoreless games, the tricky Edmonton Oilers' draft pick opened the scoring early and then assisted on the next two as the Knights maintained home-ice advantage with a 3-2 overtime win over the Guelph Storm in their Western Conference final.
The famine ended after 7:43 of play when Jamie VanderVeeken's patience behind the net allowed Schremp to sneak into the low slot to snap his pass high to ex-Knight Ryan MacDonald's stick side. His joy was unrestrained.
After all, scoring has been in Schremp's blood ever since he was a fuzzy-cheeked phenom in Fulton, N.Y. You don't have to know many elite goal-scorers to know it's like a fix and the longer they go without turning on the light, the more antsy they get.
"You hit the pipes, you hit the goalie's head, you miss an open net, it gets frustrating," Schremp said after the drought was over.
Imagine a magician who can't find the rabbit in the hat or a snooker ace who constantly finds himself behind a hook. It's almost foreign territory. And there's the blight of additional checking attention.
"You get extra coverage, but it just opens things up for the other guys," he added. "That's the main thing. It would be more frustrating during the season."
He would know. Last season, he went 10 games without turning on the red light.
In the opener here Thursday, Schremp rang the goalpost and a crossbar. Last night, it was a crossbar.
On top of everything else, Schremp has faced some nifty goaltending in Owen Sound Attack's Michael Ouzas last series and MacDonald in this one. It was like coming to a dead-stop after a season at highway speeds.
Here's a guy who was humming along at a goal-a-game pace all season, 57 scores in 57 games, up from 41 in 62 starts the previous season and 30 in 63 games the season before.
Last spring, Schremp didn't score the entire Memorial Cup, saying when he did score he wanted it to be a big one.
He finally did, in the final against Rimouski.
This one was critical, too. It maintained the approach the Knights took into this game after playing six largely sub-par periods in the previous two games. He thought the less-experienced playoff performers stepped up to help restore the Knights to their more solid game.
"This was more about us playing our game; Guelph didn't change much (from the earlier games) but we did," he said. "I think some of our (playoff-inexperienced) guys were making better decisions and weren't turning pucks over. I remember my first playoff. I was scared stiff."
Critical to the Knights' result was a fast start, attention to details such as completing each check and limiting extra-man attacks.
As everyone knows, when guys who are counted on to score aren't, it's not as though they aren't doing other things. In Schremp's case, the other things these playoffs have been assists.
So, while he's been drawing all sorts of checking attention, he has managed to tee up teammates to lead the team with 27, way out in front of OHL helpers.
He assisted on Hunter's second-period score, holding the puck long enough for McDonald to move across in anticipation of a blast, then sent a perfect pass Hunter buried into the open side.
Schremp began the relay to Hunter that went to David Bolland at the top of the slot for his OT winner.
It's goals that fuel scorers. For Schremp, last night was a start. The drought is over.