Knights vets make marks with Grizzlies

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

There's no longer a lucky loonie embedded in the middle of the ice at the E-Center in West Valley City, Utah, where the Canadian hockey team won Olympic gold almost eight years ago.

"We tried to do it (again) this year," Pat Curcio said with a laugh yesterday.

This season, the former London Knights assistant coach is helping out the ECHL's Utah Grizzlies, who play on the same ice where Joe Sakic, Steve Yzerman and Mario Lemieux buried the Americans in the Salt Lake City Olympics.

The Grizz didn't get that coin under the surface.

But they have raided the OHL for talent to skate on top of it.

Meet the London Knights/Team OHL -- Western edition.

Dylan Hunter, let go by the Buffalo Sabres organization after shoulder surgery last spring, is Utah's leading point scorer. The ex-Knights captain has seven goals and 14 points in 12 games.

"Dylan's been great for us," Curcio said. "We just lost our top two scorers and captain (to American Hockey League promotions) so Dylan's about to get a letter on his jersey."

Adam Perry, another former Knights captain, already wears a letter. He has six goals and 11 points in 12 games.

"A.J.'s a natural leader and he's been great with the young guys," Curcio said. "Kevin (head coach and GM Kevin Colley) has been real happy with his leadership qualities."

Speedy Matt Clarke already had a quick stay in Utah. He played eight games before being promoted to Colorado's AHL affiliate in Lake Erie.

And yesterday, Utah brought in a trio of old OHL scorers -- Brett Parnham, Bobby Hughes and former Knight Jadran Beljo -- to replace the big guns on the move. Beljo was acquired in a trade for Matt Caria, who played in the OHL for Plymouth and Sault Ste. Marie.

The Parnham signing helps the current Knights. Kitchener and Barrie had been interested in trading for the former Oshawa 50-goal man who still had another year left of junior eligibility.

"We had six guys move up, which shows we're doing it the right way, and we bring in a couple of 100-point men from the OHL to replace them," said Curcio, who still keeps in touch with the Hunters and is in talks to again hold a Euro Can Cup at the John Labatt Centre.

"This league isn't like the OHL in its transactions. There can be a lot of turnover, but our division is amazing.

"The Anaheim Ducks don't have an AHL affiliate so they use the Bakersfield Condors, who have Justin Pogge down here making $1.2 million and Kyle Calder pulling in $750,000."

Former Kitchener Ranger Parker Van Buskirk plays goal for Utah. Ex-Barrie Colt and Sarnia Sting forward Vladimir Nikiforov is also setting up his linemates. One-time Western Mustang Evan Kotsopoulos is also on board.

The club is winning, scoring goals and the power play is solid.

The ECHL schedule is more baseball-style than OHL to save on travel costs. The Grizzlies are in the midst of seven straight games against the same opponent, the Las Vegas Wranglers.

"We just spent six days in Las Vegas," Curcio said. "We tried to have a curfew, but a couple of nights we gave the green light for them to go out. We have a lot of real pros on this team and they were careful."

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos