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Memorial Cup

metronews.ca Thursday, May 15, 2014

Now & then

Memorial CUp

metronews.ca Thursday, May 15, 2014

How they stack up As London GM Mark Hunter says, any comparison between the Knights from 2005 and the 2014 team is largely unfair. With that being said, here are some of the strengths of each team.

2005

Comparing 2005 and 2014. Can these Knights ascend to the top of the CHL mountain? DAve Langford

dave.langford@metronews.ca

The London Knights face several formidable challenges in this year’s Memorial Cup, not the least of which is being compared endlessly to the 2005 championship team. It’s not fair, actually, to take this year’s team, which finished third in arguably the toughest single division in the Canadian Hockey League, and size it up against the Memorial Cup-winning team from nine years ago. Many people, including OHL commissioner and CHL president Dave Branch, anointed the 2005 team. “The London Knights are one of the greatest junior teams ever to play,” Branch said after the Memorial Cup ended in London in May 2005. Knights GM Mark Hunter said comparisons are difficult. “Apples and oranges,” he said in an interview with Metro. “This team has won two OHL titles the last two years, so, for longevity, it’s been doing more than the ’05 team. But, hopefully, we can win a Memorial Cup. “That’s what we are here

to do, and that will put these guys who have been here for three years on a high level.” This year’s Knights have a large core of players who were here for the OHL winning seasons in 2012 and 2013, advancing to the Memorial Cup tournaments in Shawinigan and Saskatoon. And while this season did not result in a third consecutive OHL title — the Knights lost in five games in the second round to Guelph Storm — there are many reasons for the series loss. They include the devastating absence of starting goalie Anthony Stolarz (suspension) and defencemen Zach Bell (broken leg) and Brady Austin (mono) for the entire Guelph series. To be fair, backup goalie Jake Patterson played extremely well in the absence of Stolarz and goaltending did not decide the outcome. Meanwhile, Hunter may have been the busiest person on the Knights this year, as there was constant pressure to make certain the team was capable of winning the Memorial Cup, whether they went in as OHL champs or the so-called “back door” as hosts. For more, see Page MC9.

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Bo Horvat was a powerhouse in the playoffs last year, and is considered one of the finest defensive centres in Canadian major junior hockey. Terry Wilson/OHL Images

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The Memorial Cup makes its way through downtown London as Knights fans celebrate the team’s 2005 win. The Canadian PRess File

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“We didn’t have (Nikita) Zadorov or Olli Maatta and you’re waiting around to see what to do there and you didn’t want to pull the trigger too quickly because if you do and then one of them came back (from the NHL) you didn’t have to make that move,” Hunter said. “So, at the end of the day, it was a different kind of year because the players were gone and what to do and how much to do was critical.” This year, the Knights will have been idle for 35 days before they play the Quebec champion Val-d’Or Foreurs in the opening game Friday night. This year’s Knights are full of NHL draft picks, including four 2013 first-round selections in Bo Horvat (Vancouver, ninth), Max Domi (Phoenix, 12th), Zadorov (Buffalo, 16th) and Michael McCarron (Montreal, 25th). And while the promise is

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The 2004-05 Knights began the season going 31 games without a loss (29 wins, two ties) before losing their first game Dec. 17, a 5-2 setback to the Sudbury Wolves. They won 59 games and only lost seven in the regular season, amassing an OHL record 120 points.

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They won the OHL Western Conference playoffs in 13 games, losing only once in three series against Guelph, Windsor and Kitchener. They won the OHL final in five games against Ottawa.

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The Knights went through the Memorial Cup tournament without a loss, beating Kelowna, Ottawa and Sidney Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanic twice, including in the championship game. Corey Perry was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Forward Max Domi has been one of the leaders on the London Knights this season. Getty Images File

there for solid NHL careers, the 2005 team has already been there, done that and is still doing it. As Branch pointed out, it was a team for the ages, with the NHL year-long lockout that season allowing many CHL teams to flush out their

rosters with players who might not have stayed in junior hockey. That Knights team was led by Corey Perry — who outplayed a kid named Sidney Crosby in the tournament — Brandon Prust, Dan Girardi, Marc Methot and

David Bolland, all who continue to play at a high level in the NHL. And this is nine years later. And many others — including captain Danny Syvret, Drew Larman, Robbie Schremp, Danny Fritsche and Bryan Rodney — have

2014

played more than 500 games between them. “It was a really good year,” Hunter said. “Think we had 59 wins (during the regular season) and we had a lot of players who were really hungry to win an OHL title and a Memorial Cup, which we were lucky to do. It was a great team.” Do the NHL players drafted have to be your best players for this year’s team to catch up? “Well, we’ve got lots of them, so, yes, they have to be,” Hunter said. “Josh Anderson and Tierney and the

This year’s team enters the Memorial Cup as the host team, but it also marks the third consecutive season the Knights have been involved, winning the OHL title in 2012 and 2013. In 2006, the Knights lost in the OHL final to Peterborough. The Knights have 10 players who have been drafted by NHL teams, including four in the 2013 first round. Also, many others were invited to NHL camps in the fall.

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This year’s team won 49 games and finished with 103 points in a division in which they finished third behind Guelph and Erie. That type of OHL opposition did not exist in 2004-05. Max Domi, Chris Tierney and Bo Horvat finished a combined plus-88, with 256 points. Ruperts and Max and Bo and Zadorov — there’s been a group of guys that have been there for a while now. It’s their ball.” And even with a strong division this season and injuries to overcome, can the Knights win again on home ice? “Yes, it’s a very good team. Now we’ll see how good they really are when we go to the Memorial Cup.” A championship and the comparisons would continue — a third consecutive Memorial Cup loss and any doubts would be erased.

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