Another good year for Junior Knights

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

It's is becoming the norm for the London Junior Knights -- another good season.

After years of struggling in minor hockey circles, London has become a prominent player.

This year the Junior Knights won four AAA Alliance championships and had two other teams go to national events. They also had six AA teams win Alliance titles, four of those won against other Junior Knights teams.

The success at the AA level has been the highlight of the year for first-year president Mike Fiorino.

"It's been a lot of work to get that program going," Fiorino said. "Initially, we had a lot of negative opponents. They thought we should have two AAA teams versus two AA teams. It's a good foundation starting with the AA program. We struggled to run an A and AA program. We decided not to run an A program and went with two AA programs. We found out there are other kids out there that want to play AA hockey. It's the biggest chunk of our membership. Sixty per cent of our membership is AA."

There are 400 players in the competitive Junior Knights program.

At the AA level, the Junior Knights teams are called Gold and Green. From minor atom through minor bantam, Junior Knights teams played each other in four of the five Alliance finals, missing only in minor peewee, where the Gold team defeated Brantford to win the title.

In minor midget AA, the Junior Knights defeated Hamilton to win the championship.

Minor atom Gold, major atom Green, major peewee Gold and minor bantam Gold defeated their association counterparts in their AA finals.

"The results were great because we did put a lot of hard work in the AA program. From minor atom to major bantam was almost a complete sweep," Fiorino said. "In the long run, a strong AA base will eventually prove to be advantageous to the AAA program."

In the high-profile AAA division, the Junior Knights won the Alliance championship in minor atom, major atom, minor peewee and minor bantam.

The highlights include appearances in the Ontario championships in major atom, a tournament the Junior Knights hosted, and in major midget. The major midget Junior Knights had finished second in the Alliance to Waterloo, but made the provincial tournament because Waterloo was holding it.

Coached by Chuck Dufton, the midgets went 6-0 in preliminary play then lost to eventual champion Sault Ste. Marie in the quarter-finals.

The major atom tournament was a great event that saw some outstanding hockey at the Western Fair Sports Centre. The major atoms, coached by Don Ashman, defeated Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs for the Alliance title. In the tournament, they lost the final to a strong Toronto Marlies in overtime.

"The atom tournament was a blast," Fiorino said. "Close to 500 people were at the final game. The city supported it really well, To win a silver medal for those kids was great. Watching those kids play the Toronto Marlies, one of the better organizations in Ontario . . . to see them lose in overtime, it really sort of hit the benchmark for those kids."

Another highlight was the involvement of the AAA minor midgets in the OHL Cup. The team, coached by John Calderozzi, finished the regular season in first place but was defeated in the semifinals by eventual Alliance champion Cambridge. But the club was picked as a wild card for the OHL Cup, perhaps the elite minor hockey event in Ontario.


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