Greyhounds knock off the Knights at Budweiser Gardens
The London Knights and Soo Greyhounds did all of their scoring in the third period on Friday night in a 4-1 Sault Ste. Marie win at Budweiser Gardens.
The game came down to something everyone usually fights: The aging process.
Boris Katchouk used all of his three and a half years of OHL experience to score twice for the Greyhounds, while two other veterans, Jack Kopacka and overager, Hayden Verbeek, added singles.
The London Knights saw themselves age a little more heading into the game by acquiring 20-year-old Tyler Rollo from Peterborough and getting overager, Sam Miletic back from the Wiles-Barrie/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.
That injection of experience saw the Knights create more shots and more scoring chances than they had in any other game so far in 2017-18, but they kept watching Sault Ste. Marie goaltender and L.A. Kings’ prospect, Matthew Villalta get in the way.
In fact, for two periods, the game belonged to the goaltenders. Villalta and London’s Tyler Johnson combined to make 42 saves. At least five of them came on breakaways as the Knights and Hounds’ showed off their speed, attacking and counter-attacking all night.
In the third period, it was age and experience that finally broke the scoreless tie.
With a Greyhounds’ power play ticking down, Sault forward Jack Kopacka showed off his veteran savvy and shot a puck at the net from the left side boards that not only found a lane through all kinds of bodies, but found its way into the top corner of the London net on Johnson’s glove side. The goal came with one second to go in the Greyhounds’ man advantage.
Another veteran player made another veteran move less than three minutes later as a puck deflected into the air and hit off Tampa Bay draft pick Boris Katchouk and he was able to re-direct it into the London net for a 2-0 Sault Ste. Marie lead.
Josh Nelson got London on the board at 10:08 of the third as he zipped in behind the Greyhound net and wrapped the puck around the goal post and past Villalta to make it to 2-1.
Moments later, Cliff Pu flipped a puck ahead to Miletic, freeing him up on a breakaway. Miletic tried to put the puck through the legs of Villalta, but the Kingston native made the save and kept his team in the lead. That was the second big save Villalta made on Miletic after robbing him in tight with his glove in the first period.
Not long after that chance, Katchouk struck again for his eighth goal of the year, as he got his stick on another deflected puck and just pushed it underneath Johnson as the London goalie dove across the crease.
With the Greyhounds still leading 3-1 late and the teams playing with four skaters each after co-incidental minors, the Knights pulled Johnson in favour of an extra attacker, but could not beat Villalta.
Hayden Verbeek scored into an empty net at 17:12 to finish the scoring at 4-1.
Miletic recorded four shots for London in his season debut. Max Jones led all players with eight shots on goal.
Knights’ forward Liam Foudy missed his second consecutive game after crashing hard into the boards in the first period against Kingston on September 29.
London will head to Erie on Saturday to play the Otters for the third time since the start of September, however, this will be the first game that has two points attached. The teams split pre-season meetings in London and Komoka.
AM980’s coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. You can also hear the game at AM980.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
Notes: Knights’ forward Alex Formenton will make his NHL debut with the Ottawa Senators as they play the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday.
Jesper Bratt is due to make his NHL debut with New Jersey in a Saturday afternoon game against Colorado.
Victor Mete is expected to play alongside Shea Weber again as the Montreal Canadiens take on the Capitals in Washington.
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