Knights ready for third straight Memorial Cup appearance

Knights defenceman Nikita Zadorov (left) and Zach Bell chase former Knight Rob Schremp during...

Knights defenceman Nikita Zadorov (left) and Zach Bell chase former Knight Rob Schremp during practice in London, Ont., on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. (Morris Lamont/QMI Agency)

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:36 PM ET

LONDON, ONT. - It's called the Memorial Cup, right?

When it's done next Sunday, you want to look back at the whole thing with a sense of pride.

London and the Knights did it in 2005. That tournament remains the greatest sports achievement in this city's history.

But there is room for another.

There is always space for another inspirational performance.

The players who were part of that '05 team want some company.

This current crop of Knights, eight of them starting their third straight Cup Friday night at Budweiser Gardens, are still searching for that ultimate experience.

“You remember some fun parts (of the last two tournaments in Saskatoon and Shawinigan),” London captain Chris Tierney said. “But ultimately, you look at it as a failure, basically, because you didn't achieve your goal.

“This is the third time for us and you want to be the team remembered for winning one Cup and two OHL championships – not the one losing three Cups.

“That's something we're going to look forward to.”

The Knights want some mouthwash for those twin end-of-season 2-1 losses to the host Cataractes in 2012 and Portland Winterhawks last year. That's the root of the anticipation for this Cup, which naysayers said came much too soon after just a nine-year gap.

But the Knights don't take this opportunity for granted.

“It's an achievement (to play in it),” London head coach Dale Hunter said. “It's tough to get here. There's good teams you have to go through and every team here's been through it. It's special to play here.

“A lot of guys didn't get that chance. I didn't and Mark (brother and Knights GM Mark Hunter) never did.”

Guelph coach Scott Walker tried to pass off the Knights as the tournament favourite, but his Storm have to wear that hat.

He is right the Knights, though, can't be counted out as undeserving hosts. They have too much history and experience – and now, a full lineup of healthy and conditioned players.

“You learn it's a short tournament and if you make a mistake, you can't dwell on it because it goes by too fast,” Tierney said. “We get our home dressing room, we're familiar with where to go and where to eat. Hopefully, the third time's a charm.”

They have something else they didn't the past two trips.

The home crowd.

“You know they'll be with you and they'll be the seventh man on the ice,” forward Ryan Rupert said. “Other than that, you approach it the same. You're on national television – why not get pumped up and have a positive feel?”

If they play the way they can, it will get infectious in a hurry.


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