October 12, 2017 11:38 pm
Updated: October 12, 2017 11:55 pm

London Knights denied in Windsor by Spitfires

CP Images/Mark Spowart

The Windsor Spitfires raised their 2017 Memorial Cup championship banner to the rafters of the WFCU Centre before handing the London Knights a 3-1 loss on Thursday night.

To win the tournament back in May, the Spitfires got great goaltending from Michael DiPietro, very timely scoring and a huge goal from Aaron Luchuk, who fired home the game winner in the third period of the Memorial Cup final against the Erie Otters.

Against the Knights, Windsor used the same kind of formula. DiPietro made big stops when Windsor needed him to and Luchuk netted two goals.

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The Knights likely deserved a better fate. They moved pucks out of their zone well, they were aggressive on the forecheck and they created quality scoring chances but in the end, lost for a sixth straight game.

READ MORE: London Knights acquire new defenceman all the way from Prince George

Through the eyes of the coaching staff

“I think this was our best game of the season,” said Knights’ assistant coach Rick Steadman. “Our top guys were really going. You just have to tell them that they were doing the right things. There were far more positives than negatives. Most goalies in the league don’t have the ability to make those big saves like DiPietro does.”

How the goals went in

The Knights did a very good job in transition. Alec Regula chipped a puck into centre that Alex Turko caught up to and pushed in across the Windsor line. Richard Whittaker and Turko combined to feed a pass into the slot to Harrison Cottam and he picked the top corner over the glove of Spitfires’ goalie, Michael DiPietro, for his first Ontario Hockey League goal at 11:19 of the first period.

Nathan Staios of Windsor knocked down a Knights’ clearing attempt at the left point and flung a puck at the London net. Tyler Johnson made the initial save but the rebound flipped up off his body and Spitfires’ captain Aaron Luchuk was there to knock in his seventh goal of the season to tie the score 1-1.

The score stayed that way into the third period where the Knights pressured the Spitfires in the Windsor end only to have Michael DiPietro turn each of their 11 shots aside. Windsor rookie Matt MacDougall skated across the London blue line on the left side and took a shot that started to trickle through the legs of Johnson. Luchuk managed to get a stick on it and knock it across the goal line as he crashed the net and put his team ahead by a goal with exactly five minutes left.

Cole Purboo closed the scoring with an empty-netter as he and Max Jones dove after a puck that was sliding toward the London net. Purboo got the last whack and sealed the 3-1 win.

READ MORE: The art of trying to stick in the NHL

Save of the game

It came early. Sean Day is a defenceman and a draft pick of the New York Rangers. New York elected to send him back to Windsor for a fifth OHL season (he played in the league as a 15-year-old) and he went weaving down the ice and dished the puck in front of the net to Luke Boka who got a shot away, only to have Johnson come sliding across, spread-eagle to make the stop.

Planes, buses and automobiles

Shane Collins played in his first game for the Knights after being released by the Prince George Cougars of the WHL, picked up by the Barrie Colts and traded to London for a 14th round draft pick. Collins left British Columbia at about 5:30 p.m. PST on Wednesday, landed in Toronto, drove to London, met his billet, had a quick nap and stepped on the Knights’ bus for the trek to Windsor. The over-ager played in all situations and helped London to move pucks out of their own zone all night.

London plus Windsor equals incredible success

Since 2005, the Memorial Cup has been won 13 times. The Knights and Spits can account for five of those victories, which works out to almost 40 per cent.

Each year, 60 teams begin the chase for that ultimate championship. That just two teams have combined to win it so often in a short stretch is rare.

What may be even more unbelievable is the fact that either London or Windsor have been in the Memorial Cup tournament in eight of those 13 years.

READ MORE: NHL rosters have all kinds of London and area content

Next up

The teams will complete their home-and-home series on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens. London will be trying for their first victory on home ice.

The Knights host Londoner Nick Suzuki and the Owen Sound Attack on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. There are a few tickets still available for that game. Call 519-681-0800 x 1, visit the Knights’ Armouries or go online to http://www.londonknights.com.

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