April 19, 2017 1:02 am

London Knights’ season ends in overtime in Game 7

Mike Stubbs/AM 980

As a hockey fan, it was exactly what you would want in a Game 7.

It had goals, saves, hits, plays, drama, a last minute goal, a last second goal and ten minutes and 40 seconds of back-and-forth overtime. Every bit of that was required to finally decide a winner between the London Knights and the Erie Otters.

Warren Foegele’s goal with 9:20 remaining in the first overtime period lifted the Otters past the Knights 5-4 at the Erie Insurance Arena on Tuesday night.

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Foegele got his stick on a Darren Raddysh feed as he went to the London net on the right side of the zone and chipped the puck over Knights’ goalie Tyler Parsons to send what had been a loud crowd all night to a whole new decibel level.

“You miss one at one end and they come back and score at the other end,” said London assistant coach, Rick Steadman, referring to a Knights’ two-on-one that was stopped by the glove of Otters’ goalie, Joseph Murdaca on the shift before the game winner went in. “Overall, for fan excitement and excitement in the game of hockey, this was a fantastic series and I wish (the Otters) the best of luck moving forward.”

Foegele’s goal ended what could have been yet another storybook comeback by the Knights, who were playing in their fifth elimination game and it gave the Hurricanes’ draft pick a little redemption.

Mitchell Stephens had played hero in the final minute of regulation time as he batted a puck past Murdaca on a London power play with Foegele sitting in the penalty box for a cross-check that sent Knights’ defenceman, Olli Juolevi into the boards in the Knights’ end.

Stephens’ goal was reviewed for more than five minutes, but was ruled a good goal and joins the list of game tying, game winning, overtime winning and shootout winning goals he netted for London after being acquired at the OHL trade deadline.

It was Stephens who scored the shootout winner in Owen Sound in January that stopped the Attack’s fifteen game winning streak on a day when the Knights were missing eight regulars. London had fought back from a 5-1 deficit in that game. A trait that the Knights would carry and test throughout the rest of the regular season and through fourteen games in the playoffs.

The Knights did not have to fight back from any multi-goal deficits in Game 7 versus Erie. Both clubs had leads. London actually held the lead the longest.

London assistant coach, Dylan Hunter gave both teams a great deal of credit.

“That was a great battle. Back to back overtime games, it was exciting, it’s just too bad that it didn’t go our way in the end.”

Fast starts were often hard to find this season for the Knights, but after giving up an opening goal to Ivan Lodnia, they stormed right back.

Janne Kuokkanen, Evan Bouchard and Cliff Pu scored goals in a span of 2:10 to put London ahead 3-1 and chase Otters’ starter, Troy Timpano for the second straight game on home ice.

READ MORE: Knights add future talent

For the second game in their building, Erie found a way back, beginning with a Darren Raddysh goal with 0.9 seconds to go in the opening period. Raddysh pinched in and stood outside a scrum in the right corner of the London end and watched as the puck came right to him. Raddysh snapped it under the crossbar to bring Erie to within one.

The second period went scoreless as Parsons began to really make his presence felt. He stopped 21 shots over the middle twenty minutes and ended the game with 58 saves overall in what could be his final game as a Knight.

“He is great,” said Steadman. “He played so hard for us and deserves everything he has been able to achieve in (hockey).”

Anthony Cirelli, who Parsons and his Team USA teammates got the best of at the World Juniors tied the game at 5:14 of the third period and then the Otters went ahead with 3:31 left and Dylan Strome won a face-off to Alex DeBrincat and he wired a wrist shot into the Knight net.

The Erie crowd had every reason to believe that would be the game winner, only to have the Knights find a way to make life tough on the Otters one more time.

READ MORE: Tonight is not the first Game 7 between London and Erie

Erie will now face the Owen Sound Attack in the Western Conference finals, starting on Friday.

The Peterborough Petes and Mississauga Steelheads meet in the Eastern Conference finals. That series gets going on Thursday.

The Knights will now head into the off-season. Players like Robert Thomas and Alex Formenton will head to the NHL Entry Draft in June.

READ MORE: Rankings for the top London-area NHL draft prospects

Knights’ captain, J.J. Piccinich, forward Owen MacDonald and others will move on and graduate, while younger players will find new and larger roles next year as the Knights push to remain one of the top franchises in junior hockey, having been one of the last five teams standing in 2017.

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