London News & Search
The London Knights’ net must be well-defended this season.
Stray pucks need securing. Offensive strikes have to be snuffed out. Danger is to be denied.
So Tyler Johnson turned to an ex-navy personal trainer this summer to prepare his body for a shot at the starting job.
That would be his older half-brother, Joshua Sausner, who studied at the Naval Aircrew Candidate School in Florida.
“I get a real good workout with him,” Johnson, the 19-year-old from Amherst, N.Y., said this week. “His background was with paratroopers, mostly jumping out of planes and helicopters. He’s a big thrill guy, so he loved that. Some of us are thrill-seekers. The whole skydiving thing, I haven’t done that.
“I’d like it, and to go with my brother because he’s been doing it quite a while. I know we’d have to go with an instructor, but it would still be cool.”
Johnson didn’t follow the same sporting route as Sausner, who played football and baseball. But the goalie couldn’t say enough about the support he has received from his brother.
“My older brother always looks out for me,” he said. “He takes that upon himself to keep me in line and push me harder and make me the best person and hockey player I can be.”
Every Knight knows there is no quick fix to losing Tyler Parsons. But the team got a major taste of life without him last year, with Johnson and fellow OHL rookie Jordan Kooy filling in while the star netminder was hurt or gone at world juniors.
Johnson and Kooy combined to win 20 games in his absence.
For London to finish in the upper portion of the Western Conference standings, the tandem will have to at least double that this season.
“I got to play quite a few games,” the 6-foot-2 Johnson said. “I got a real feel for the league, this team and the organization. We want to have a winning mentality every day. We want to work hard. The coaches expect a lot of us and know we’re willing to do what it takes.
“They bring in guys here who want to get better, want to put in the effort and progress in hockey, or even outside of it as a good person. I’m ready to get to the grind.”
Watching the playoff run and Game 7 overtime defeat to Erie in the second round had a lasting effect on Johnson. He said he isn’t alone.
“A lot of the guys coming back, we understand how bad it hurts to lose,” he said. “We had a great run last year and we’re coming in with the mentality we have a lot of key parts and can do really well if we come together as a group.
“And Jordan and I are going to try to be a big part of this team doing well.”
The real audition for the crease starts with the exhibition opener against Sarnia Friday at Budweiser Gardens.
Kooy aims to put up similar stats as his fabulous 11-game emergency stint — 2.45 goals against average and .927 save percentage — only on a larger sample size.
“Playing more than last year is the goal,” the 17-year-old from Bradford said. “Just working hard and competing to see who will play. I learned (from Parsons) it was just compete every day — never give up. Don’t get beat by the puck.
“Ultimately, it’s Dale’s (head coach Dale Hunter) decision.”
Kooy worked out with his personal coach, David Belitski, a former four-year Kitchener Ranger. He focused on quickness and control after the busiest hockey season of his life.
“Last year was crazy (playing for three teams — the Knights, major midget AAA Jr. Knights and St. Marys Lincolns),” he said, “but it was really fun. At first, it’s tough to leave home, but you meet friends.
“I feel really comfortable.”
They won’t be shuttled around on multiple teams or asked to jump out of planes this year.
All they have to do to keep the net is make enough saves.
First two of London’s four preseason games
Friday: Knights vs. Sarnia, 7:30 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens.
Saturday: Knights at Sarnia, 7:05 p.m.
London News & Search