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London Knights take 3-0 series lead on Landon Sim’s overtime winner

Landon Sim’s goal at 11:59 of the first overtime period gave the London Knights a 4-3 victory over the Flint Firebirds and a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference quarter-finals.

Wayne Gretzky always encourages young athletes to play more than one sport and Sim credited his time in the batter’s box with the hand-eye co-ordination it took to get one of the biggest goals of the 2024 playoffs so far for the Knights.

“I played AAA baseball when I was younger,” chuckled Sim. “So I just tried to time it right.”

Asked what that tip might have netted him on the ball diamond Sim said, “With the result it might have been a grand slam but probably a bunt down the first base line that ended up going foul.”

Fortunately Sim was aiming for a six-foot by four-foot net and he hit it perfectly.

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London switched up their lines going into overtime and it seemed to give Flint some problems in their own zone, especially when the trio of Sim, Kaleb Lawrence and Denver Barkey were on the ice. They had the Firebirds hemmed in their own end and an attempt to clear the puck was knocked down by London defenceman Oliver Bonk and he turned and shot the puck at the Flint net where it hit Sim in front and got past Firebirds goaltender Nathan Day.

“It was the first time in the game that there was actually a clear lane (to shoot at the net),” admitted Bonk.

That’s how tight the Firebirds have been playing the Knights in the series.

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London led the game 3-1 in the third period after a faceoff win by the Knights led to a Kasper Halttunen goal at 2:19 but Flint came back on goals by Coulson Pitre and Blake Smith to force OT.

There were only three goals scored through the first 40 minutes of the game and all three were scored in the span of one minute and 16 seconds during the first period and those goals the Knights a 2-1 lead.

Bonk was knocked down in the left corner of the Knights end and remained down on the ice while play continued and eventually Connor Clattenburg of the Firebirds batted a puck out of the air on a shot that went wide and it landed in the back of the London net at 11:50.

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As much as the goal went up on the scoreboard on the Flint side of the ledger it seemed to spark the Knights.

Max McCue threaded a pass to Kaleb Lawrence and he deked home his third of the playoffs just 25 seconds later and then Easton Cowan finished a four-way passing play to make it 2-1 just 51 seconds after that.

London outshot the Firebirds 36-28. The Knights were 0-for-1 on the power play.

Flint was 0-for-4.

@ohlhockey

36 straight games with a point 🎬 With a 1G-1A performance in the final game of the season, Easton Cowan passed Connor Bedard and Logan Stankoven for the third longest point streak in the CHL since 2000. #eastoncowan #mapleleafs #leafsforever #ohl @London Knights @Toronto Maple Leafs

♬ original sound – Ontario Hockey League

Cowan nominated for Red Tilson Trophy

London forward Easton Cowan is up for the Ontario Hockey League’s most outstanding player award. He was nominated for the Red Tilson Trophy on April 1. The Maple Leafs prospect finished second in points per game and put up the third-longest point streak in OHL history at 36 games.

Cowan is from Mt. Brydges and wound up tied with teammate Denver Barkey for most short-handed goals, led the league in most short-handed assists and was second to Jack Beck of the Soo Greyhounds in power play assists. The award winner is selected through a vote by OHL writers and broadcasters and is named for former Oshawa Generals forward Red Tilson, who was killed while serving in the Second World War.

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Tilson led the Generals to two league championships and was the top scorer in 1942-43 in what was then the Ontario Hockey Association.

Knights lead the Western Conference with eight Coaches Poll awards

Each year the Ontario Hockey League polls its coaches to choose the best-of-the-best in a long list of categories. Coaches pick a top three and London led the way with eight honourees. Only the Oshawa Generals had more players selected overall with nine.

Kasper Halttunen was tops in voting for hardest shot, while Denver Barkey was named best shootout shooter. Ruslan Gazizov came in second to Kitchener’s Matthew Sop for best stickhandler. Easton Cowan was named third-best defensive forward.

Isaiah George was the second-best penalty killer behind Matt Andonovski of the Rangers. Sam Dickinson was named second-best defensive defenceman behind Andonovski and Oliver Bonk was third-best offensive defenceman. Michael Simpson came second to Carter George of Owen Sound for best puck-handling goaltender.

Londoner Jett Luchanko found his way into the voting in four different categories. He was top three in hardest worker, best skater, smartest player and best shootout shooter.

Up next

The Knights and Firebirds will meet in Game 4 on Thursday, Apr. 4 at the Dort Financial Center.

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

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