The Erie Otters stretched their lead atop the OHL standings with a 5-1 win over the London Knights Wednesday night to open a four-point lead atop the OHL standings.
The Otters became the first team to reach 40 victories and stretched their current winning streak to 11.
Erie got the first opportunity to score early and took advantage after a power play came up empty.
The Knights had just finished killing a double-minor and were a 6’1″ defenceman away from clearing the zone. Had Erik Cernak of the Otters been two inches shorter, maybe he would have jumped up and missed a puck that was flipping end over end in the air toward centre ice. At 6’3″ with long arms, he jumped up, caught the puck and dropped it to his stick and fed it to the left side of the London end to Alex DeBrincat.
Knights goaltender Robert Thomas was able to block Debrincat’s first shot attempt, but the puck came right back to the OHL’s leading scorer from a different angle and he buried his 47th goal of the year to open the scoring.
Erie jumped ahead 2-0 after Ivan Lodnia blocked a Tyler Johnson clearing attempt around the boards and sent it in front to Warren Foegele. Johnson got back into the crease, but Foegele was able to slide the puck past him.
Knights’ assistant coach Rick Steadman says those goals forced London to change what they wanted to do.
“When they get a couple of quick goals, you have to chase from behind and when you chase, you start opening up and with (a team like Erie) they are able to jump into those seams and create more offence.”
Erie got their third goal of the game on a power play at 4:08 of the second period as Dylan Strome kept a puck in at the blue line, fed it to his Team Canada teammate, Taylor Raddysh and he found his brother Darren coming in from the right point.
Strome made it 4-0 just over nine minutes later as he took a feed from DeBrincat who went streaking into London territory to beat out an icing and backhanded a puck to Strome who was following on the play.
The Knights began to pull puck possession their way toward the end of the period and create a couple of scoring chances, but would not break through until the final seconds. With 4.4 ticks left on the clock, the puck came to second-year London defenceman Evan Bouchard and he wound up and slapped it past Joseph Murdaca in the Erie net to send the Knights to their dressing room down by three goals.
London kept pressing early in the third and got a power play chance when captain J.J. Piccinich was taken down going to the net.
The Otters managed to kill that off and then got a strange goal from Strome to keep their unbeaten-in-regulation streak on home ice alive. Strome and Knights’ defenceman Brandon Crawley lost their sticks and Strome ended up grabbing Crawley’s stick and then took a pass and scored. That made it 5-1. Erie is now 26-0-1-1 through 28 games in their building this season.
The Soo Greyhounds hold the record for best home ice record. They went 33-0-0 in 1984-85.
London played without Tyler Parsons and Victor Mete. Parsons has been out just over a week with an upper body injury. Mete has not played since January 13, after taking a puck to the side of the head. Both are close to returning.
Steadman said they will definitely take a few notes back home with them for their next meeting with Erie.
“We have to get the puck down below the goal line like we did in the third period,” Steadman said. “It made it harder for them to contain us in the offensive zone and it gave us a lot more chances. It also shut them down on the rush where they couldn’t get as much done.”
The Knights have completed a two-week road swing and will now return to Budweiser Gardens to face the Owen Sound Attack Friday. After that, they will head right back out on the road for six of seven games.
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