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London Knights blow past Storm to reclaim first place in the west

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. Jim Van Horne/980 CFPL

Connor McMichael set up two goals and Dylan Myskiw made 18 saves in the London Knight net as they got by the Storm 3-1 in Guelph on Sunday afternoon.

The victory gives London sole possession of first place in what is still a very clogged Western Conference in the Ontario Hockey League.

With 27 games in the books, the Knights and Storm each have 38 points, but the Knights own an extra win thanks to Sunday’s game, so they get the edge.

The London Knight penalty kill bounced right back after allowing three goals on the man advantage against Owen Sound on Friday. London killed off all seven Guelph power-play opportunities.

“The guys were sacrificing,” said Dylan Hunter who took over the head coaching duties for the Knights as Dale Hunter departed for Team Canada’s final selection camp for the World Juniors. “With having Billy Moskal and (Kirill Steklov) out of the lineup. They are regular penalty killers and Luke (Evangelista) stepped up and (Ryan Merkley) had six or seven blocks and that makes a big difference.”

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London was facing Nico Daws in the Storm net. He owns the best goaltending statistics in the OHL this season but Knights forward Connor McMichael says the team went in with an approach for what Daws does.

“He’s really good with the first shot so we wanted to get traffic around him, work the puck low and then throw passes out front and try to jam them home and that’s what we did.”

McMichael fed Evangelista at 7:43 of the opening period in exactly the way he described and Evangelista scored his tenth goal of the year. McMichael now has at least a point in 19 of his past 20 games. He and Liam Foudy will now head to Oakville where they will participate in Team Canada’s selection camp. They will see Daws there as well.

Cole Tymkin made it 2-0 London less than three minutes later as he blasted a puck into the top corner of the Guelph net on a set-up from Nathan Dunkley.

Guelph got the only goal of the second period just one minute and one second in as a shot bounced off the end boards in the London zone right to Pavel Gogolev and he hammered it into an open side to cut the Knights lead to 2-1.

Alec Regula finished the scoring on a London power play in the third period from McMichael and Merkley.

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Merkley was playing against the team that drafted him first overall in the OHL Priority Selection. Most of his former teammates with the Storm are no longer on the roster but Merkley says he enjoyed the challenge of playing against players like Daws and Cam Hillis.

“It’s fun. We had a few laughs;” admitted Merkley. “We had a good bounce-back game against a very good team. They have been on fire. It was important (to play that way), especially against Daws. I’ll text him after this one for sure. he’s been awesome.”

Myskiw came up big when called upon for London. Even though he didn’t face as many shots as Daws did, the Winnipeg, Man., native made some important saves, maybe none more important than a left pad stop on Pavel Gogolev as he broke in alone just over two minutes into the third period.

The Knights continue six games in ten days in Kitchener on Tuesday. They will go to Niagara on Thursday and then race back home for their first meeting of the season with the Sarnia Sting on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.

READ MORE: Around the OHL: OHLers competing for a spot on Team Canada

Dale Hunter on international ice

Until early January, London Knights head coach Dale Hunter will be putting on a red tie and taking his place on the ice and behind the bench as the head coach of Canada’s 2020 World Junior team. Hunter has coached Canada internationally on one other occasion. That was in 2013 at what was then the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in Breclav and Piestany in the Czech Republic. Team Canada won their opening game over the host Czechs 4-0 but a tight 4-3 defeat against Sweden in their second game created a must-win for Canada against Switzerland that the Swiss pushed to a shootout. Canada managed to win and never looked back. The buy-in by the team defensively led Canada past Russia 3-1 and set up a gold medal game which Canada won 4-0 over Team USA. The victory gave Team Canada their sixth-consecutive gold at the Ivan Hlinka. Dale Hunter will now look to repeat that kind of performance with his brother Mark, back in the Czech Republic at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

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READ MORE: Playing hockey, making movies. Such is the life of London Knights goaltender Dylan Myskiw

The Nico Daws story

Nico Daws of the Guelph Storm has been a player in the Ontario Hockey League since 2017. He has been a household name in the OHL since October. Before this season the big man from Burlington wasn’t flying under the radar. The radar he was looking for was in a different time zone. Now he leads the league in goals-against average and save percentage and has earned an invite to Team Canada’s final selection camp for the World Juniors. Daws told Guelph Today, “I’m an underdog. Undrafted and I’ve never played for Team Canada. I’ll just do my thing and play my game. I know I belong there.”

READ MORE: London Knights fans to toss teddies for Christmas Hamper Program

Teddy Bear tour to continue

There are 19 Teddy Bear Toss games across the Ontario Hockey League this year, according to the OHL’s website. Thanks to their road-heavy schedule, the London Knights are a part of eight of them.

The Knights held their own on Friday, Dec. 6 at Budweiser Gardens and collected 8624 stuffed toys for the Salvation Army to distribute to children in the London area during the holidays.

The overall OHL record still belongs to the Kitchener Rangers. London will be in Kitchener on Dec. 10 for the Rangers Teddy Bear Toss this year. The Knights were a part of events in Flint, Mich., Sault Ste Marie, Ont. and Peterborough, Ont. They will see the bears fly in Windsor, Niagara and North Bay, as well.

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Tre pre-game show in Kitchener will begin at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.