The London Knights came very close to a perfect pre-season.
After three consecutive wins, London fell 5-4 to the Erie Otters at the Komoka Wellness Centre on Saturday night.
As they have done all pre-season long, the Knights’ young players continued to show incredibly positive traits. Rookies Emmet Pierce and Tonio Stranges combined for three goals to erase a 3-0 deficit. Stranges ended exhibition play with four goals in three games. The Knights’ other second-round pick in 2018, Sahil Panwar, scored his second goal of the pre-season and Dalton Duhart turned in another strong game.
This was the second year in a row that London and Erie played a game in Komoka and once again they played it in front of a sold-out crowd.
How the goals were scored
The Otters scored three goals in a span of 4:10 in the first period to jump ahead 3-0. Danial Singer, who Erie obtained in a trade with the Niagara Ice Dogs, opened the scoring on a backhand. Veteran and probable Otters captain Kyle Maksimovich and 2018 fourth overall pick Jamie Drysdale followed, putting the Knights in a bit of a hole.
They began to climb out at 15:58 when Emmet Pierce banged a puck out of the air and into the Erie net on a London power play.
Tonio Stranges followed that up with his third goal of the pre-season on a hard wrist shot at 18:40, cutting the Otters’ lead to 3-2 at the end of the first period.
Stranges tied the game just over two minutes into the second period as he spun and backhanded the puck past 18-year old rookie goaltender Noah Battaglia.
Things stayed that way until an Erie man advantage late in the second period. Emmett Sproule deflected a Jack Duff shot past Justin Richer in the London net to put Erie ahead by a goal heading into the third.
Joseph Mack scored the eventual game winner at 10:25, but the Knights fought back one more time.
Matthew Timms blasted a puck that went wide of the Otters net, but London rookie Sahil Panwar controlled the ricochet and put it into the net to make it 5-4.
The Knights pulled goaltender Richer will just under two minutes to go, but could not manage to get the equalizer.
Zach Springer started in goal for the Knights on Friday in London’s pre-season game against the Erie Otters and was 2:08 away from a shutout when the Knights were given a penalty. The Otters kept the puck in the London end for most of the two minutes trying to break the goose egg, but their best chance came as the penalty was ending when a bouncing puck in the slot. “It was a broken play, so it was a bit awkward,” Springer said after the game. “The puck came to one of their sticks in the slot and I went down into the butterfly and luckily it stayed out.” Springer skated away with a clean sheet and the game’s first star.
The 50/50 draw at London Knights games will look a little different beginning with the final pre-season game against Erie. Fans can look for sellers in yellow on the concourse and purchase their tickets from them. An electronic tally will be displayed throughout the game and the hope is that the money raised for organizations and charities running the 50/50 will grow. The electronic system has been in use for several years at other venues and events and has proven to be very successful.
Attacking off the ice
As the final weekend of the 2018 OHL pre-season plays out, the Owen Sound Attack have been the busiest team away from the ice surface. Owen Sound traded overage defenceman Cole Cameron to North Bay for a fourth round draft pick and then they acquired defenceman Carter Robertson from Ottawa for a pair of second round picks. One of those selections originally belonged to the Knights. It was traded to Owen Sound in the deal that brought London Victor Mete.
Season ticket holder appreciation
Knights season ticket holders are invited to Budweiser Gardens from 1-4 on Sunday, September 16 for an appreciation day which will feature a skate with the team and all kinds of other games and activities. Season ticket holders are asked to enter through Gate 1.
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The regular season begins. The London Knights will open their 2018-19 schedule at home to the Windsor Spitfires on Friday, September 21 at Budweiser Gardens. Given the amount of youth and high skill level on both teams, the London/Windsor rivalry has the ingredients to be an incredible matchup for years. Both teams will be coming of age at the same time. They also represent the last two Memorial Cup champions to come out of the Ontario Hockey League.
Coverage of opening night
London Live with Mike Stubbs will be on location at Budweiser Gardens between 1 and 3 p.m. The pre-game show will begin at 6:30 on 980 CFPL and at www.980cfpl.ca with play-by-play starting at 7:30.