The London Knights fell just shy of a four-goal comeback on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens as they fell 5-3 to the Sarnia Sting.
Down 4-0 with under five minutes remaining in the second period London began a three-goal surge that brought them to within one goal through the final 10 minutes and 24 seconds of the third period but they could not manage the one more they needed and Sean Josling sealed the Sarnia victory with an empty-netter at 18:23 of period three.
Marek Berka opened the scoring on a breakaway at 7:55 of the first period. That goal was followed up by a snapshot into the London net from Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Jamieson Rees and then a shot from the point at the end of a Sarnia power play was knocked home by former Erie Otter Joseph Mack.
The Sting added to their lead just 13 seconds into the second period when Eric Hjorth stepped across the blue line and zipped a wrist shot past Brett Brochu, who had entered the game in place of Dylan Myskiw.
The game actually featured two fights. There was an early tussle between Cole Tymkin and Marko Jakovlevic that saw more gloves dropped to the ice than landed punches and then a spirited little tilt between 16-year-old Max McCue of London and Theo Hill of Sarnia.
McCue headed to the penalty box and urged on his teammates and the move seemed to add some momentum the Knights way.
With the Knights still pressing, the Sting managed to score a goal at the other end of the ice that was immediately waved off on a call of goaltender interference. Sarnia head coach Derian Hatcher used a coach’s challenge on the play but the call on the ice was upheld.
Not long after that, Ryan Merkley got the puck deep into the Sarnia end. It bounced off the end boards to Luke Evangelista and he banked a shot off Ethan Langevin and into the Sting net for Evangelista’s 11th goal of the season, cutting the Sarnia lead to 4-1 through 40 minutes.
Jonathan Gruden scored a power-play goal 1:05 into the third period that came on a 5-on-3 man advantage to carry London’s momentum into the final 20 minutes.
Ryan Merkley’s third assist of the game was a shot into the slot that was tipped in by Nathan Dunkley at 9:26.
From there the Sting held off the Knights charge and won their second straight game.
London outshot Sarnia 16-6 in the third period and 38-26 overall
They now finish out the rest of their pre-holiday on the road, beginning with a game in Windsor on Sunday afternoon.
Liam Foudy and Connor McMichael of the Knights will play at the World Juniors
This year’s Team Canada entry is being coached for the first time by Dale Hunter, while Mark Hunter returns as General Manager for Team Canada. London Equipment Manager Chris Maton and Head of Security Bob Martin are also with the team.
McMichael made Team Canada as an 18-year old and could play in next year’s tournament as well. He leads the Ontario Hockey League in points with 59 in 27 games. McMichael was selected by the Washington Capitals in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft in June. Foudy attended Canada’s final selection camp last year and was one of the last cuts which he felt benefitted him this year because he knew what to expect. Canada opens the tournament on Boxing Day against the United States, and their roster could feature both Alec Regula and Jonathan Gruden of the Kights
Steklov and Say advance at World Jr. A Challenge
London Knights defenceman Kirill Steklov is from Estonia but he represents Russia at International tournaments and is currently playing at the World Junior A Challenge in Dawson Creek, B.C. Russia has made it to the medal round after the Czech Republic defeated Canada West on Thursday. Londoner and Knights’ draft pick Owen Say is representing Canada East. They have also made it through the five-team round-robin and into the semis. Say has appeared in one game in goal for Canada East so far and currently plays for the Powassan VooDoos of the NOJHL where he has a 2.23 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Say was an 8th round pick of the Knights in 2017.
The Knights will finish out their final three games before the holiday break on the road. They will be in North Bay on Thursday, December 19 and in Sudbury on December 20.
This Sunday London goes to Windsor to meet the Spitfires who have also been one of the top teams in the OHL during the first half of the year. It will be the third meeting between the clubs after the first two were played at Budweiser Gardens. The Spitfires won the first one 4-2. The Knights beat Windsor 6-3 on December 29 in a game that saw London defenceman Hunter Skinner record a career-high three assists.
Coverage on 980 CFPL gets going at 1:30 on Sunday. You can also hear the game at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.