Greyhound win means Knights will start playoffs in Owen Sound
Heading into the final day of the Ontario Hockey League’s regular season, there were playoff implications for 12 of the 16 post-season participants.
All had to do with playoff positioning.
The London Knights may have had the toughest task. A win would give them home-ice advantage in their first series against the Owen Sound Attack, but London found themselves in Sault Ste. Marie against the Greyhounds, who own the league’s best record and were smarting from a Friday home-ice loss to the Flint Firebirds.
The Knights ended up falling 6-3 in a game that was much closer than the final score showed.
“I thought our effort was great,” said London assistant coach Rick Steadman. “I thought we were working hard and playing great [defence]. We pretty much shut them down except on special teams, and anytime you can do that against a top team, you give yourself a chance to win.”
London scored the first goal of the game and led 2-1 after the first period. That’s when a penalty parade began for both teams — and the Greyhounds capitalized.
They were 4-for-10 on the man advantage and London was 2-for-8. Take away a goal scored with 9.3 seconds to go in the game and that was the difference.
The Knights put a rise into the crowd with 10:47 to go in the third period, trailing 5-3 as London head coach Dale Hunter elected to pull the goalie with the Knights on a 5-on-3 power play to turn it into a 6-on-3.
Evan Bouchard hit the crossbar, but no London player could find the back of the net and Sault Ste. Marie held on for their 55th victory of the year. The Hounds tied a Knights record with seven regulation-time losses, a record first set in 2004-05 by a London team that went on to win the Memorial Cup.
Knights forward Connor McMichael also hit a crossbar in the final period.
Jordan Kooy made 34 saves in the London net.
The Knights now go on the road to Owen Sound to begin the post-season this week.
How the goals were scored
Harrison Cottam of the Knights made use of the old adage “Put the puck at the net” to score the first goal. He chipped a puck toward the goal from near the blue line and it got through former Knights goalie Tyler Johnson and trickled to the side of the net ,where Josh Nelson tucked it in to give London a 1-0 lead.
Hayden Verbeek of the Greyhounds tied the game on a rebound, but the Knights went ahead again before the end of the first period as Evan Bouchard pounded a slapshot past Johnson on a power play to make it 2-1 London after 20 minutes.
Two goals by Noah Carroll and Barrett Hayton on the man advantage put Sault Ste. Marie in front 3-2, but London bounced back on a power play of their own as Liam Foudy fed Tyler Rollo in front for his third goal in three games and a 3-3 tie.
Jack Kopacka added to the Greyhounds’ league-leading short-handed goal total with his 31st of the season at 18:53 and the Soo led for the first time through 40 minutes.
An early third-period power-play goal by Morgan Frost made it 5-3, then Joe Carroll finished the scoring on a final man advantage with just 9.3 seconds remaining.
Evan Bouchard ties a record
In 1990-91, Rick Corriveau set the record for most points in a single season by a London Knight defenceman with 87. Evan Bouchard’s power-play goal in the first period against the Greyhounds on Sunday gave the Knights captain 87 points on the season. Bouchard scored 25 goals and added 62 assists and became the first London defenceman to lead the team in scoring.
Game 1, Thursday, March 22 at Owen Sound – 7:00 p.m.
Game 2, Saturday, March 24 at Owen Sound – 7:30 p.m.
Game 3, Monday, March 26 at London – 7:00 p.m.
Game 4, Thursday, March 29 at London – 7:00 p.m.
Game 5, Saturday, March 31 at Owen Sound – 7:30 p.m.
Game 6, Monday, April 2 at London – 7:00 p.m.
Game 7, Tuesday, April 3 at Owen Sound – 7:00 p.m.
Saginaw vs Sault Ste. Marie
Guelph vs Kitchener
Windsor vs Sarnia
London vs Owen Sound
Ottawa vs Hamilton
Mississauga vs Barrie
North Bay vs Kingston
Oshawa vs Niagara
The Knights will play Game 1 of their Western Conference quarter-final series against the Attack in Owen Sound on Thursday, March 22.
The pre-game show begins at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at 980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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