Four goals in the final period made it a happy home opener for the Barrie Colts as they defeated the London Knights 6-2 in Barrie on Saturday night.
With the game tied 2-2, Tyson Foerster took a feed from Colts captain Jason Willms and ripped a shot past London goalie Jordan Kooy to break the tie and push the momentum in Barrie’s direction.
The game was made even more special by the sell-out crowd celebrating the start of the franchise’s 25th year in the Ontario Hockey League.
Two more goals from Matej Pekar to complete a hat trick and one from physical forward Luke Bignell put the game away for the Colts.
Up to that point the Knights had been putting a good road game plan to work. They had been using the boards, forechecking well and getting pucks at Vancouver Canucks prospect Arturs Silovs, who was making his OHL debut in the Barrie net. London fired 39 shots at Silovs in all.
After posting five assists in the pre-season, Tonio Stranges scored his first goal of the year for the Knights as he banged in a rebound just 2:44 into the first period. Willms tied the game for the Colts but Connor McMichael’s second goal in as many nights had London back in front before the end of the first period.
Pekar tied the game in the final stages of the second period for Barrie and set the stage for their offensive explosion in the final 20 minutes.
After scoring on opening night, London’s power play was kept quiet, going 0-for-4.
McMichael had a game-high nine shots on goal.
After playing four and a half years with the Owen Sound Attack, Kevin Hancock finished his OHL career in London and topped the 100-point mark. Even that was not enough to earn him a professional contract. Hancock went through the summer without signing. He enrolled at Brock Unversity and was set to play in the OUA with the Badgers in 2019-20. Hancock did attend rookie camp with the St. Louis Blues but left that without a deal. Then on Sept. 21 came an announcement all the way from Tucson, Ariz., that the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners have signed Hancock, so at last his professional career can now begin.
The London Knights are waiting to find out what the Vegas Golden Knights have planned for forward Paul Cotter. Vegas has assigned Cotter to the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. The Golden Knights can decide to have Cotter play in Chicago this year or could send him back to London for an overage season.
Former Knights Joey Keane and Brandon Crawley were both assigned to Hartford of the AHL by the New York Rangers. Keane is the older brother of current London defenceman Gerard Keane.
Girardi announces retirement
In 2005, Dan Girardi was one of the final pieces added to the London Knights’ Team of the Century. He came over from the Guelph Storm after beginning his OHL career with Barrie and was a major force in the franchise’s first Memorial Cup championship. After 13 seasons in the National Hockey League, the shot-blocking specialist from Welland has decided to finish his playing career. Girardi’s is a story of perseverance. He went undrafted by all National Hockey League teams but worked his way to a two-way contract out of major junior with the New York Rangers organization. He spent his first professional season playing in the AHL and the ECHL where the Rangers saw his steadiness and willingness to do the little things that help teams win as major attributes. Girardi made his NHL debut the next year. After 11 years in New York Girardi signed with Tampa Bay for his final two seasons. He told reporters, “I gave my all every single night and left it all on the ice. Now it’s time for the next chapter of my life to begin and I couldn’t be happier… and so is my body.” Girardi totalled 1,913 shot blocks. While stat records in that category are relatively new, the former Knight ranks number one all-time in NHL history.
Hunter Skinner debuts with two
The Knights selected Hunter Skinner in the fifth round of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection. When the New York Rangers called his name in the NHL Entry draft, it was decided that the best path for his development would be in London. Skinner became the first Knights player to post a multi-goal game in his first appearance in a London uniform in a season opener since Max Domi in 2011. Skinner is from Pinckney, Mich., and spent last year playing in the United States Hockey League.
The 2019-20 Ontario Hockey League season is going to feature a whole lot of talk about top-end 17-year olds set for the next NHL Entry Draft. Sudbury selected Quinten Byfield with the first overall pick in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection and he is already leading the way on the road to Montreal next June. Byfield scored four of Sudbury’s first five goals of the year and assisted on the other. He entered the OHL season after a strong performance at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in August and is considered by most draft watchers as the number two overall prospect behind Alexis Lafrenierre of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic.
The Knights return home to play the Erie Otters on Sept. 27 at Budweiser Gardens. London and Erie got to know each other quite well during back-to-back pre-season games in London and in Clinton. The Knights won the first of those game 4-3 in a shootout as Luke Evangelista scored the game-winner and Brett Brochu stopped five of six shots in the shootout. The next night as part of Hockey Day in Huron County, the Otters knocked off London 7-2. Erie started their regular season with back-to-back wins over Sudbury and Hamilton. Second-year defenceman Jamie Drysdale tied a team record for points by a defenceman with a goal and four assists against the Bulldogs.
980 CFPL’s coverage will begin at 6:30 live from Shoeless Joe’s on King Street. You can also hear the game at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.