Time is on Knights side
Current roster’s work at both ends means London may not need to deal for upgrade
It’s hard to nitpick a team that was perfect in the month of November.
That’s why, even though the Knights have been keeping an eye on the veteran talent becoming available across the OHL, they aren’t in any hurry to do anything game-changing at the moment.
Many believe they need a topline scorer to get to the Memorial Cup in May, but it’s hard to make that argument when the current roster consistently puts up seven goals a game recently, including in an 8-1 win over Kingston Friday.
“We have good chemistry here,” London GM Mark Hunter said. “I like how our team plays. They push and they want to win. I have time for them. We’ll see (what happens). Everybody comes and put their work boots on every night and you have to come and be ready to play. They have been and hopefully, we can continue that and do what we have to win more games here.”
The Knights have the best goalsagainst total in the league. But the best teams in junior hockey are usually the ones who can score five goals when they need it. You don’t feel comfortable if you win a bunch of nailbiters, including overtime and shootout contests.
“I like our goal differential,” Hunter said. “We’ve got enough goals (in the lineup). In the National Hockey League, a lot of guys look at goal differential and ours (in the plus-50 range) means we have games where we’re really pushing.”
Making their mark
Nathan Dunkley believes the Knights desire to win was built in from their first-round sweep at the hands of Owen Sound last spring.
“We were bitter from last year and we knew we had good core guys on the team,” said the 18-yearold OHL first-rounder, who was acquired from Kingston in the Cliff Pu deal. “Every year, you come in with the attitude you want to be a winning hockey club but there is something special here and we know we’re going to make a really good push.
“A lot of guys can play a bunch of different roles on this team and winning only adds to that confidence in what we’re doing.”
The Frontenacs don’t look an awful lot like the club that Dunkley was with at the start of last season. But there are enough familiar faces that he still enjoys the opportunity.
“It’s always cool to play against your buddies,” he said. “It’s a good challenge and it’s feels extra good when you win. You play to win and that’s the most exciting part.”
Alex Formenton was in atom hockey when Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
So the returning world junior forward is obviously excited for the chance to wear the Canadian jersey on the same ice surface where that happened during the tournament this month.
“It should be a lot of fun and hopefully we can come out with the same gold-medal result there,” the Knights star said. “We had good support in Buffalo last year and I think it will be great from our fans there.
“I’m excited to play in front of them.”
Holding the fort
Even though the Knights beat Erie 8-1 a week ago, Joseph Raaymakers made a number of spectacular saves in that game.
There is a lesson for many young goaltenders in his performance there. Don’t play to the score.
“It’s something I learned over the years,” the over-ager said. “If you’re up five or six goals or down the same, you have to compete and battle for your team and give them the next save. Really, you just go and play and don’t about anything more than that. Even if a bad goal goes in, we’re there to support each other.”
Raaymakers played on some quality teams in Sault Ste. Marie before asking to be traded last year. He believes this team has a depth to it you don’t often find on many junior rosters.
“It’s nice to have highly skilled players on forward and D,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to be set up that way and we believe in the Hunters. They’re very good at their jobs and we trust they’re going to work their hardest to give us the best chance to win every game.”
London Knights defenceman William Lochead slams Kington Frontenacs forward Cameron Hough into the glass during the first period of their OHL game at Budweiser Gardens on Friday night. The Knights won 8-1, their 15th straight victory.