Knights set bar on high

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

It doesn't seem to matter much whether you start 3-0 or 0-3 in London any more.

The expectations are the end result will be the same, a team challenging for a title.

Of course it's too early to be talking end result, but the London Knights have infused that kind of expectation in this community, no matter how many players graduate and no matter what the form chart says should happen.

When the Sudbury Wolves come to town tonight they'll be facing an undefeated Knights team. At 3-0, the Knights have scored 19 goals, giving up 11.

Last year at this time, they were 0-3, having scored only 10 goals and given up 22.

What a difference a year makes.

Well, not really.

The Knights made it to the Ontario Hockey League final last year. They made it despite predictions they didn't have a chance to accomplish what they did the year before when they won the Memorial Cup.

With Rob Schremp, Dylan Hunter, Adam Dennis and Dave Bolland gone from last year, no one was quite sure what kind of team the Knights would have.

"Well, the more you win, the more people expect you to win," defenceman Scott Aarssen said. "They expect the London Knights to be successful because of the quality of the organization. But we've only played three games against three teams. We don't know about the other teams. So we'll just take it one day at a time."

"Every season is a new season," forward Josh Beaulieu said. "Even if you lose some players, the guys who are left can pass on how to win."

How simple does that sound?

Three games and three wins. If you listen to talk, this team is slated for greatness. "How many to you think they'll win before they lose one?" asked one individual.

The young players brought in by the Knights are doing well and the players who have come back seem to have improved.

Joining the Knights against the Wolves is 29-goal scorer Jordan Foreman, who got the go-ahead to play tonight after a final examination of his now-healed broken foot.

Who knows what 20 games down the road will bring, but confidence brings out the best in teams and often makes them play better than they should. This is a self-assured team. The returning players have done a lot of winning.

This year's Knights may not be as successful as last year's team, but you wouldn't consider that a possibility by their attitude.

For a young team, they're playing well. The strength of this team over the last three years has been special units, especially the power play. Three games into the season and the power play already looks in midseason form. Talent has a lot to do with it, but so does confidence.

"You never feel you can't win a game," said Aarssen. "It doesn't matter who you play and where they are ranked, you feel you can always come out on top."

Coach Dale Hunter says when you win a lot, you begin to "crave it."

"The kids place expectations on themselves," said Hunter. "I tell them to set personal goals high and to look to exceed them."

Is the start the Knights have had surprising?

Absolutely.

They've beaten supposed contenders Owen Sound and Saginaw and won in Erie, one of the toughest buildings on the circuit.

But it would be naive not to admit there are some shortcomings to address.

"We have a lot of areas to work on," said Hunter. "We give up too many scoring chances and we're a little sloppy defensively."

And the true worth of a team won't really be known until they face difficult times.

"Every team goes through times of adversity," said Hunter. "How you come back from that, how you react means a lot."

What happens then will offer insight into how good this team will be.

If you were a betting person, you would bet they will respond the way those other teams have.

Many of the players may be new, but the attitude is the same.


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