Look who’s back want­ing more

Trade dead­line ac­qui­si­tions have Knights primed for Memo­rial Cup re­peat

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - DHIREN MAHIBAN

OSHAWA — Mitch Vande Som­pel knows what a win­ning at­mos­phere feels like.

The de­fence­man was with the Gen­er­als two years ago when Oshawa won its fifth Memo­rial Cup. Now a mem­ber of the Knights fol­low­ing a Jan. 9 trade, Vande Som­pel be­lieves Lon­don is ready for a lengthy play­off and a shot at re­peat­ing as Memo­rial Cup cham­pi­ons.

“I think we have the skill for sure,” said the New York Is­lan­ders prospect. “It’s def­i­nitely a dif­fer­ent team, my year that we won it was more of a grind­ing style. We had a good power play (and) we cap­i­tal­ized when we needed to.

“(In Lon­don) it’s more of a fast­paced, skilled team. It’s dif­fer­ent, but at the same time you get the sim­i­lar vibe, hope­fully go­ing for­ward we can do that.”

Vande Som­pel was one of three trade dead­line ac­qui­si­tions made by Dale Hunter’s club three weeks ago. The Knights also ac­quired for­wards Mitch Stephens from the Sag­i­naw Spirit and Dante Sal­i­turo, who was play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally in the ECHL be­fore his OHL rights were traded from Ot­tawa to Lon­don.

The new ac­qui­si­tions have helped Lon­don to a 6-1-2 record in nine games since the trade dead­line.

Head­ing into last weekend’s three-game, three-night stretch Lon­don (32-8-7) owned the league’s best win­ning per­cent­age (.761). How­ever, a visit from di­vi­sion-ri­val Erie last Fri­day saw the new-look Knights suf­fer their first reg­u­la­tion loss. Erie was with­out lead­ing scorer Alex DeBrin­cat in the 5-3 win while Lon­don was with­out sev­eral play­ers due to in­jury and ill­ness, in­clud­ing lead­ing scorer and Buf­falo Sabres prospect Cliff Pu and Ana­heim Ducks 2016 first-rounder Max Jones. Stephens stepped up in Pu’s ab­sence, scor­ing three goals and two as­sists be­fore adding the shootout win­ner in Lon­don’s 7-6 come­from-be­hind vic­tory over Owen Sound on Satur­day.

Then on Sun­day night, the Tampa Bay Light­ning prospect added two goals in a 4-0 win over Oshawa. The 19-year-old for­ward now has six goals and six as­sists in nine games with Lon­don.

“He works so damn hard to get into scor­ing chances,” said Hunter. “He’s a good two-way player. That’s what we need here, that’s why he got drafted in the Na­tional Hockey League.”

DHIREN MAHIBAN, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Mitchell Stephens was one of three play­ers ac­quired by Lon­don at the On­tario Hockey League trade dead­line.

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