Down seven regulars, London Knights win seventh game in a row

Landon Sim and Ruslan Gazizov each scored twice and Evan Van Gorp recorded his first-ever goal in the OHL as the London Knights defeated the Erie Otters 5-1.

London scored their five goals on 18 shots and got 29 saves from Michael Simpson who came up huge again and again, especially early in the game.

Denver Barkey had three assists for the Knights and now has 55 points on the season.

The Knights were again without seven regulars in their lineup.

Kasper Halttunen, Easton Cowan, Oliver Bonk, Max McCue, Sawyer Boulton and Ethan MacKinnon all missed the game due to injury, suspension or participation at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Knights knew that Alec Leonard was returning to their lineup after being away for two games due to a slew-footing game misconduct but ended up playing the game minus Jacob Julien and his 18 points of production in London’s last 10 games. Julien was listed as out day-to-day with a lower body injury.

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Van Gorp grew up on a farm in Watford, Ont., and knows all about getting going early.

The 17-year-old scored his first Ontario Hockey League goal just 10 seconds into the first period against the Otters to give London a 1-0 lead.

Landon Sim scored the Knights 14th short-handed goal of the season to make it 2-0 before the end of the opening period and then Sim added his second of the game at 3:57 of the second period and London had themselves a 3-0 advantage.

The Knights are 9-1 since Sim returned to the lineup in December after off-season surgery.

Spencer Sova got Erie on the scoreboard on a power play before the halfway mark of the second as he fired from the slot on an Otters power play, but Ruslan Gazizov took a pass from Denver Barkey at the edge of the Otters crease and popped in his 16th goal of the year for a 4-1 London advantage.

The Knights kept their power play streak alive getting a goal on the man advantage for a 16th consecutive game.

Of the power play goals that London has scored in that span that dates back to Nov. 18, this was by far the strangest as the Knights didn’t have to shoot or even have the puck in order to get it.

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Gazizov dumped the puck into the Erie end and Otters defenceman Matthew Schaefer tried to clear it but the puck hit his defence partner Owain Johnson and ricocheted into the top corner of the Otters net.

That completed the scoring and gave London their 24th win of the season.

Brendan Gerber made his OHL debut for the Knights. He was London’s sixth round pick in 2023.

Gazizov named OHL Player of the Month

When you are able to put up 11 points in a single week things are probably going very well for you.

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Ruslan Gazizov of the Knights had a week for the ages before the Ontario Hockey League’s holiday break but his entire month of December was the best offensive month of the season from a points per game perspective. The 19-year old finished December with six goals and 18 assists for 24 points in just 11 games.

Gazizov also scored one of the most memorable goals of the year in a 4-3 London comeback win in overtime against Sudbury on Dec. 17. Dorchester’s Marcus Vandenberg of the Wolves was the Goaltender of the Month. Vandenberg had a goals against average of 3.01 and a save percentage of .901.

Dickinson named OHL Player of the Week

With seven regulars out of the lineup in a game against the Flint Firebirds on New Year’s Eve, Knights defenceman Sam Dickinson gave London reasons to celebrate when he scored once, added an assist and led all skaters with eight shots on goal. It was part of a three-game week that saw one of the top prospects for the 2024 NHL Entry Draft score three times and record five assists in three Knights wins.

Dickinson is ranked third by Dobberprosepcts, fourth by and fifth by the Hockey News.

Up next

London is home to the Barrie Colts on Friday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m.

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The Knights defeated the Colts 9-3 on Nov. 25 to end a three-game road trip. Kasper Haltunen recorded his first hat trick that night and Easton Cowan, Jacob Julien and Ruslan Gazizov each had three points.

Barrie has just one regulation loss in their last five games.

Coverage will start at 6:30 p.m., on 980 CFPL, at and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

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