Like a rock on the shoreline of a beach, the London Knights survived wave after wave of Kitchener Rangers attackes on Sunday night and held on for a 2-1 road victory.
London built a lead on a couple of firsts as Lucas Rowe netted his first goal in the Ontario Hockey League and Connor McMichael scored his first as a member of the Knights. McMichael’s goal broke a 1-1 tie with 3:31 to go in the second period, and from there London did everything they could to hold off the Kitchener attack.
Defence has been a big part of the Knights game plan this season. London has allowed the second fewest goals in the Western Conference. Only the first-place Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds rank ahead of them.
As wild as the action got around him at times, goaltender Kooy was still smiling as he hauled his pads to the Knights’ bus after the game.
“It was pretty crazy to be honest,” admitted the 17-year old. “It was pretty fun too. It gives us a confidence boost and hopefully that keeps rolling into next weekend.”
Kooy won for the fifth time in six starts.
The Rangers outshot London 39-30.
How the goals were scored
Harrison Cottam picked off a Kitchener clearing attempt just inside the blue line and snapped a puck on net. The shot was stopped by Rangers goalie Luke Richardson, but the rebound kicked out to Lucas Rowe and the Knights’ first round pick from the 2017 OHL Priority Selection buried his first OHL goal to give London a 1-0 lead.
Kitchener tied the game on the second of back-to-back power plays as Riley Damiani stepped to the top of the right circle and wristed a shot off the left post and in.
Another first for London put them ahead 2-1 at the 16:29 mark of the second period as Nathan Dunkley worked the puck back and forth in behind the Kitchener net and then centered a pass to Connor McMichael for his first goal in a Knights’ uniform and sixth of his rookie season.
Making it look as easy as 1-2-3
There is a very old adage in hockey that your best penalty-killer is your goalie and on the very first penalty kill of the game, Kooy was exactly that. He followed up two point-blank saves on Flyers prospect Connor Bunnaman with a third save off Bunnaman after he took a pass at the side of the London net and cut across the crease only to have Kooy kick out his right pad to make another dynamite stop. Kooy made 38 saves and was named the game’s first star.
Four teams are now separated by three points in the Western conference if you cast your eyes over the middle of the standings. The Knights are fourth with 49 points, Windsor is fifth with 48, Saginaw has 47 points and sits sixth and the Guelph Storm are seventh with 46. The Owen Sound Attack are now seven points behind that pack as they cling to the eighth and final playoff spot.
The 2004-05 London Knights hold the record for the longest unbeaten streak to start an OHL season. They went 29-0-2. That is an OHL record as well as a Canadian Hockey League record. Those 31 games without a loss in regulation also represent the longest unbeaten streak at any time during a season. The Soo Greyhounds are the first team to even get close to the record since it was set. Their win over the Mississauga Steelheads on Saturday night stretched their streak to 29 games. Sault Ste. Marie’s next two games will take them to Sarnia on Friday night and then Flint on Saturday.
Up next for the Knights
London will play back-to-back games on Thursday in Windsor and then on Friday at home to the Niagara Ice Dogs. The Knights and Spitfires are the last two teams to win the Memorial Cup and made more moves than any other OHL teams at the trade deadline with the future in mind. The Ice Dogs made moves for the here and now, including a deal to pick up Sam Miletic from the Knights.
Coverage of both games will get going at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.