Point number 99 and a win for the Knights
J.J. Piccinich and Sam Miletic each recorded a goal and an assist as the London Knights kept their push for 100 points and third place in the West alive with a 3-2 road victory over the Firebirds on Saturday night.
Before and during the game, the schedule for Flint’s first round series against the Soo Greyhounds appeared over and over on the video scoreboard above centre ice, but the Firebirds were a whole lot more focused on what was happening on the ice than they were what was coming up for them next week, and they made it anything but an easy on London.
The Knights and the Firebirds flew through three quarters of the first period like two teams who couldn’t wait for the playoffs to arrive.
London broke through on a goal from their captain, as J.J. Piccinich went to the net with just over four minutes to go and tipped a Sam Miletic shot past Connor Hicks to give his team a 1-0 London lead.
Two minutes and one second after that, it was Piccinich who made the play to put the Knights up 2-0. He carried the puck across the Firebirds’ blue line and made a move to the outside and then spotted fellow Maple Leafs’ prospect, Nic Mattinen cruising into the slot. Piccinich put the puck on Mattinen’s stick and he buried his second goal of the season.
As time wound down in the first period, former Knight, Kole Sherwood rifled a pass up the middle of the ice to Ryan Moore and he went in on a breakaway, only to be stopped by Tyler Parsons in the London net.
It took all of 1:47 for the Knights to grow their lead to three goals. Robert Thomas made a quick move in front of the Flint net and snapped a shot off the pad of Hicks and Miletic crashed the net and banged in the rebound for his 37th goal of the year.
That goal seemed to spark the Firebirds and they began to nibble at the momentum. A Jalen Smereck power play goal off a face-off put Flint on the board, cutting the London lead to a pair of goals at 4:11. That tilted momentum further to the home side and just under seven minutes later, they cut the lead to one.
Maurizio Colella took a pass from former Knight, Kole Sherwood and shovelled the puck across the goal line.
London then weathered the storm for the rest of the second and on into the third period and bit by bit began to slow things down.
Time ticked away to just over two minutes remaining and Flint pulled their goalie for an extra attacker and created three good scoring chances, coming as close to tying it as the crossbar.
Mitchell Stephens carted the puck down the ice, fought through a check, push the puck into the left corner and went to chase it when Sherwood came flying back and blind-sided Stephens with a check that set him helicoptering to the ice. Sherwood was given a five minute major for a blind-side hit and a game misconduct.
London held the puck and their lead the rest of the way through the final 55 seconds to earn their 99th point of the year.
Parsons earned his 23rd win with 42 saves.
The Erie Otters clinched first overall in the OHL, claiming the Hamilton Spectator Trophy for the second year in a row as they defeated the Guelph Storm 5-2.
The battle for third place in the Western Conference will go into the final day of the regular season after the Owen Sound Attack knocked off the Kitchener Rangers. The Attack lead the Knights by one point. London needs a win in Sault Ste. Marie on Sunday and a Storm victory over Owen Sound in Guelph.
The pregame show begins at 1:30 on Sunday on AM 980, player.am980.ca and the Radioplayer App.
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