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Billy Moskal scores overtime winner as the London Knights beat the Sarnia Sting

Sarnia, Ont. - Billy Moskal of the London Knights celebrates his Overtime winning goal as the Knights defeated the Sting 4-3 on December 29, 2019. Mike Stubbs/980 CFPL

Billy Moskal of the London Knights scored 45 seconds into overtime to give London a 4-3 victory over the Sting on Sunday in Sarnia.

Four years of Ontario Hockey League experience gave the Sudbury native an extra edge as he carried the puck along the right side of the Sting end. Moskal and his two linemates were nearing the end of the first shift in OT — he could have stopped along the boards, he could have chipped it behind the Sarnia net, but his age helped him to sense an opportunity.

“I was going to take it back out (to centre ice) to reset but I noticed two of their players looking toward their bench and I thought they might be thinking about a change,” explained Moskal.

“I took a chance and kept skating and I saw a clear lane and was able to get right to the net.”

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Moskal cut across the crease and outwaited sprawling Sting goalie Ethan Langevin before snapping a shot into the empty top half of the Sarnia net. The goal was Moskal’s second in two games.

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The finish was made even more dramatic by the fact that the Sting managed to tie the game with 11.1 seconds remaining in regulation on a goal by Ryan McGregor.

But Moskal pointed to what got London within seconds of a regulation win as being the biggest difference in London leaving Sarnia with two points. “The biggest focus for us has been finding a way to play a complete game and I think we really did that tonight.”

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READ MORE: OHL Roundup: Sunday, December 29, 2019

That sentiment was echoed by Knights associate general manager Rob Simpson.

“In this entire stretch, without the guys [who are] away at World Juniors, that was probably one of our most consistent games from start to finish,” said Simpson.

The Sting got the only goal of the opening period on an individual rush by Jacob Perrault. He got a shot away and was able to backhand home his own rebound.

The Knights tied the game early in the second period on a breakaway goal by Tonio Stranges that came on a London power play. Stranges seemed to catch the Sting defence flat-footed coming in across the blue line and he zipped between two defenders and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Langevin to make it 1-1.

“[Ryan] Merkley made a great play to get it to me in the middle,” pointed out Stranges. “Luckily their defence were a little out of position and I was able to take advantage of it.”
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Sarnia got the lead back on a power play of their own as Brayden Guy tapped in a pass from Ty Voit at the side of the Knight net but Sahil Panwar and Jonathan Gruden combined on a give-and-go just over four minutes later to tie the game 2-2 at the end of 40 minutes.

Luke Evangelista was rewarded for a strong game as he took a feed from Avery Winslow in the slot and wristed a shot past Langevin to give London a 3-2 lead at 10:25 of the third period.

The score stayed that way until the final few seconds when McGregor scored to even things 3-3. The goal was reviewed for possible goaltender interference with Guy in front but the goal stood and that led to Moskal’s heroics in overtime.

READ MORE: Hamilton Bulldogs battle back from early 3-0 deficit but rally falls short in Guelph

Gruden ended the game with two assists and now has five points in his past four games.

London’s power play went 1-for-1. The Sting were 1-for-3.

Sarnia outshot the Knights 30-27.

The teams will complete their eighteenth consecutive New Year’s home-and-home on Tuesday at Budweiser Gardens.

The Knights are now 25-6-2-1 in the annual tradition between the teams that began on New Year’s Eve 2002.

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READ MORE: 2020 world juniors: Lafreniere out against Germany, could play later games

Team Canada set for Germany at World Juniors

The 3-1 victory by Team USA over Russia on Sunday makes Team Canada’s path at the World Junior Hockey Championship slightly more clear. If they win their remaining two games against Germany and the Czech Republic, Canada will clinch first place in Group B thanks to their victory over the Americans on the opening day of the tournament and two losses by the Russians. Canada will play Germany on Monday morning at 9 a.m. eastern time. Both countries are 1-1 so far, but Germany faces a much tougher finish to their round-robin schedule with games against Canada and Russia still to go. After opening the tournament with a 6-3 loss to Team USA, the Germans rebounded the next day and edged the host Czechs 4-3. Team Canada and the Czech Republic play at 1 p.m. ET on New Year’s Eve.

READ MORE: Canadian captain faces heat for not removing helmet during Russian anthem at World Juniors

Spengler Cup update

Quarter-final day in Davos, Switz., saw the first two teams eliminated from this year’s Spengler Cup tournament and one of them was the hosts themselves. TPS Turku knocked off Davos 3-1 to advance to a semi-final against a Team Canada side that features all kinds of area connections. Canada is lead by head coach and London native Craig MacTavish who is joined on the bench by former London Knights assistant coach and assistant G.M. Misha Donskov. Former Knights goaltender Brendan Burke is also a part of Team Canada. Through two round-robin games Canada outscored their opponents by a 9-2 margin to advance straight to the semis.

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Trinec edged Salavat Ufa 3-2 and will play Swiss club Ambri Piotta in the other semi-final.

READ MORE: Around the OHL: Preparing for the worst — and hoping it never happens

Up next

London and Sarnia will play the second half of their year-ending home-and-home series on Tuesday afternoon at Budweiser Gardens. The game will kick off the second half of the Knights 2019-2020 schedule. They went 20-12-1-1 through the first half.

The Knights will also be home on Friday, Jan. 3 when Dallas Stars prospect, Thomas Harley, and the Mississauga Steelheads make their only visit. London will then head for Flint on Jan. 4.

All games can be heard on 980 CFPL, http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

The pre-game show will start at 3:30 p.m. New Year’s Eve and at 6:30 p.m. for the games against the Steelheads and the Firebirds.