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Ruslan Gazizov powers London Knights past Firebirds with second career hat trick

The London Knights improved to 19-0-0-2 in their past 21 games as they defeated the Flint Firebirds 9-2 at the Dort Financial Centre in mid-Michigan on Feb. 7.

Ruslan Gazizov led the way with three goals that included a between-the-legs finish to complete his second career hat trick. Gazizov now has 24 goals on the year. Gazizov also recorded two assists in the game.

London scored four of their goals in the second period in a span of just two minutes and 55 seconds.

Easton Cowan scored the fourth goal of that quartet to extend his point streak to 19 games. That ties the Maple Leafs prospect with Anthony Romani of the North Bay Battalion for the longest scoring streak in the OHL this season.

The teams actually played it tight early on as they combined for just one shot in the first seven minutes and 57 seconds.

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Gazizov broke a scoreless tie at 15:18 of the opening period as Isaiah George cut in from the left point and got the puck to the front of the net where Gazizov found it and was able to get to his backhand and slide the puck underneath Flint goalie Nathan Day to make it 1-0 through the first 20 minutes of the game.

The Firebirds tied the game 1-1 as Nathan Aspinall found a puck in a scrum in front and scored at 3:51 of the second period.

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It took just 53 seconds for the Knights to retake the lead.

An Alec Leonard shot from the right point was deflected by Landon Sim and while Day got a piece of it, the puck managed to roll across the goal line for a 2-1 London lead.

Kaleb Lawrence kicked off the four-goal surge at 12:30 of the second period with his 13th goal of the year.

Gazizov snapped home his second of the night at 13:34 and then, 25 seconds later, Gazizov was set up by Henry Brzustewicz and Denver Barkey and went to the net where he put his stick between his legs and lifted a shot underneath the crossbar and suddenly it was 5-1 for the Knights.

Cowan followed that goal with one of his own at 15:25 of the middle period to extend his streak and London led 6-1 heading to the final 20 minutes.

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Oliver Bonk connected on a pass from Cowan for his 19th goal of the year on the Knights first power play early in the third period and Max McCue made it 8-1 for London on the Knights second power play.

Nolan Dann of the Firebirds scored to cut into the London lead at 11:03 of the third period and then Gazizov recorded his fifth point of the night as he set up Barkey for his 27th goal of the season. Barkey ended the game with a goal and two assists.

George had three assists. Halttunen, Leonard and Sam Dickinson all had a pair of helpers.

Michael Simpson earned his league-leading 24th victory and despite only facing 25 shots, he came up large in the London crease several times.

Flint actually outshot the Knights 25-24.

London’s power play was 2-for-3.

The Firebirds went 0-for-4.

Owen Willmore honoured

Owen Willmore of the Knights has been named the OHL Goaltender of the Week for the week ending Feb. 4, 2024. Willmore is from St. Thomas, Ont., and has played a huge role in London’s recent 18-0-0-2 run. He has appeared in eight games during the Knights streak and has compiled an 8-0-1 record in tandem with Michael Simpson’s 10-0-1 record.

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Willmore began the week with his first Ontario Hockey League shutout in a 4-0 victory in Kitchener and then stopped 19 of 22 shots against the Erie Otters and made 24 saves on 27 shots in Owen Sound in a 4-3 shootout win as London came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Attack.

Up next

The Knights will face the Windsor Spitfires on Friday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m., at Budweiser Gardens.

London and Windsor still have four more games against each other before the end of the regular season.

So far the Knights have won 10-7 and 6-2 in games played at the WFCU Centre.

This is their first home game against the Spitfires.

Coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m., on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

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