September 22, 2017 9:57 pm

Spitfires top Knights in London’s opener

Mike Stubbs/AM980
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Opening night anywhere is always filled with firsts and new fixtures.

On Friday night at Budweiser Gardens, seven London Knights made their regular season debuts, Liam Whittaker picked up his first Ontario Hockey League point and Josh Nelson set off the brand new goal celebration inside Budweiser Gardens.

In the end, the Windsor Spitfires handed a young Knights lineup their first loss of 2017-18, by a score of 5-2.

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The Spitfires opened the scoring on a goal by Igor Larionov Jr. on a power play. He took a pass going to the net and flipped a puck inside the post onto the stick side of London goalie, Tyler Johnson, for his first OHL goal.

Josh Nelson evened things as he dug a puck loose in the Windsor zone and snapped a sharp-angled shot past Michael DiPietro in the Spitfires’ net. That gave fans their first listen to a new London Knights’ goal horn and goal song, which was locally produced by London’s own, Bobnoxious.

That goal tied the game 1-1 at 14:35 of the first period. Liam Whittaker recorded one assist. Whittaker was a fifth-round pick of the Knights this past April in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection. Billy Moskal was credited with the other assist. Moskal was London’s second-round pick in 2016 and had a splash of OHL competition last season, playing in 13 games. Moskal spent most of last season with St. Mary’s of the GOJHL where he won Western Conference Rookie of the Year honours.

READ MORE: Here is a look at the 2017-18 London Knights

Windsor went back in front on another power play at 9:46 of the second period as Cole Purboo took a feed in front of the Knight net and scored his first goal of the season to make it 2-1.

Adrian Carbonara and Josh Nelson combined to crash the Windsor net and tie the game a second time with less than four minutes to go in the period and they got the puck into the crease and whacked until it went across the goal line. Carbonara gave it the final swat and the score sat tied heading toward intermission.

Windsor forward, Chris Playfair didn’t allow it to reach the horn as he sped down the right-wing with less than a minute to go. Playfair cut into the slot and wristed a hard shot into the London net to keep the see-saw on the scoreboard going and put the Spifires back in front by a goal.

READ MORE: 2017-18 OHL season preview from a London Knights’ perspective

The third period saw very little 5-on-5 hockey. Penalties created a 4-on-4 situation for a full two minutes, 5-on-4s, 5-on-3s and even a 6-on-3 with an empty Knight net.

Strangely, both third-period goals were scored at even strength in between some of those power-play opportunities.

After London came close during a scramble at the side of the Windsor net, Mathew MacDougall found Tyler Angle in front of the Knight net and he lifted the puck into the top corner to give the Spitfires a 4-2 lead.

With just over five minutes left, London head coach, Dale Hunter elected to pull the goaltender for an extra attacker, but the Knights could not find a way to beat DiPietro and a long shot by new Spitfires’ captain, Aaron Luchuk slid into the London net to end the scoring.

The Knights outshot Windsor 32-31.

READ MORE: Coome’s climb: London Knights’ defenceman on a new path

London still has Cliff Pu, Victor Mete, Max Jones, Robert Thomas, Alex Formenton, Sam Miletic and Jesper Bratt away at NHL training camps. Thomas had two goals on Friday night in a 4-0 St. Louis Blues’ victory over Washington and Sam Miletic scored the first goal of the game for Pittsburgh in his first NHL pre-season game. Former Knight, Olli Maatta scored the winner in that game as the Penguins beat Columbus 4-3.

The Knights now head to Saginaw and Sault Ste. Marie for games on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

AM980’s coverage will begin at 6:30 on Saturday and 1:30 on Sunday. You can also hear the game at AM980.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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