The London Knights made it back-to-back wins with a 5-2 victory over the Spitfires in Windsor on Thursday night.
London lost twice following the trade deadline to veteran-laden Kitchener and Hamilton, but then beat the Rangers in Kitchener on Sunday and followed up with a strong performance, four nights later.
London assistant coach, Dylan Hunter says you can point to a number of reasons for the Knights’ success in their past two games.
“We’re executing our systems pretty well. Our power play is clicking right now, we’re finding the open guy and we’re playing as a team. The players are buying in.”
Hunter admits the on-ice component of working guys into the lineup is important, but what happens off the ice can make a difference as well.
One of the new faces, Sergey Popov, scored his first goal as a Knight in Windsor.
London now faces a quick turnaround as they return home to take on another team that added veterans at the trade deadline in the Niagara Ice Dogs.
“Back-to-back is always tough,” warns Dylan Hunter. “They have a lot of offence. They can move the puck up and down the ice. We have to make sure we don’t give up any turnovers at our blue line to put pressure on our defence and on Joseph Raaymakers.
The Chatham native earned the win in net for the Knights against the Spitfires, outduelling Michael DiPietro in the Windsor net. Raaymakers made 27 saves to DiPietro’s 25.
Nelson led the way offensively for London with a goal and an assist. Bouchard had two assists and now leads the Knights in scoring with 52 points on the year. He will serve as an alternate captain in the Top Prospects game next week.
The Knights are now 17-0-0-1 this season when they bring a lead into the third period of a game.
London now has a three-point lead over Windsor for fourth place in the Western Conference standings.
How the goals were scored
Sergey Popov scored his first goal as a member of the Knights at 7:10 of the first period as he snapped a puck off the post and in behind DiPietro after a feed from Nelson, who fought his way deep into the Windsor zone down the left sideboards.
Nelson then scored a goal of his own as he tipped a pass from Bouchard past DiPietro at 10:54 and London took a 2-0 lead to the dressing room through 20 minutes.
The teams traded power-play goals in the second period as Luke Boka of the Spitfires scored just 1:38 into it to cut the Knights’ lead to 2-1.
Alex Formenton put London back in front by a pair just over five minutes later as he corralled a blocked pass, stepped toward the Windsor net and snapped a puck through the legs of DiPietro.
Formenton and Foudy each had breakaways late in the second on another Windsor power play, but both were stopped by DiPietro.
Boka tightened the gap to a goal again just 3:26 into the third period as he banged in a centering feed from Cedric Schiemens to make it 3-2.
The game stayed that way until the 16:42 mark when London restored their two-goal lead for a second time as Liam Foudy showed off his shot, coming down his off wing. He crossed the Windsor line and snapped a puck into the Windsor net to give the Knights some insurance and some breathing room, up 4-2.
With the Spitfires’ net empty and less than a minute to play, Billy Moskal won a faceoff in the Knights’ end and Alec Regula shot the puck down the ice and between the goal posts from about 185-feet to finish the scoring at 5-2.
Youth is being served
The London Knights are the third-youngest team in the OHL with an average age of 17.7 years old. The Saginaw Spirit are the second youngest team in the league with an average age of 17.54 years of age and the Windsor Spitfires are the youngest team. Their average age is 17.48 years. Windsor has six players on their roster who were born in 2001. Ontario Hockey League teams are only permitted to dress four players born in 2001 at a time.
Greyhounds in the hunt
In 2004-05, the London Knights put together the longest unbeaten streak in Canadian Hockey League history. With Corey Perry, Dave Bolland, Brandon Prust and at that point, eight other players who would go on to play in the National Hockey League, they went 31 games without losing in regulation. Their record was 29-0-2. It has stood unrivaled until now. The Soo Greyhounds have gone 28-0-0-1 in their last 29 games. They will be in Sarnia on Friday and in Flint on Saturday.
Click below to hear from their head coach, Drew Bannister on his team’s run so far.
January 18, 1958
It was 60 years ago that Willie O’Ree became the first black player to play in the National Hockey League. O’Ree is now 82 years old and still works as an adversity ambassador for the NHL where he continues to talk regularly with young hockey players everywhere and has become well known for the line, “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”
READ MORE: Knights edge Rangers 2-1 in Kitchener
The London Knights will fall just short of a full night’s sleep after travelling back from Windsor, but the schedule in junior hockey isn’t always able to provide complete rest. The Niagara Ice Dogs come to London on Friday night to play the Knights at Budweiser Gardens. The game brings back two former London players. Adrian Carbonara will be returning to the Niagara lineup after serving a two-game suspension and Sam Miletic will be back on London ice as well. He was traded to the Ice Dogs at the deadline. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.