The London Knights have been one of the top faceoff teams in the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20.
That paid off in a large way twice on Friday night in a 3-1 London victory over the visiting Hamilton Bulldogs.
Connor McMichael and Luke Evangelista both scored on bang-bang plays right off faceoffs in the Bulldogs zone, giving the Knights their 10th win in their last 11 games.
Overall, London was 44-23 in the faceoff circle against the Bulldogs.
Among players who have taken at least 400 draws this season, there are four Knights in the top eight including Nathan Dunkley, who sits at the top of the list.
Jonathan Gruden scored both goals that London scored away from faceoffs to give him 20 on the season
Bradey Johnson picked up the lone goal for the Bulldogs.
Brett Brochu made 35 saves in goal for London to earn his 19th victory of the year. Zachary Roy faced 48 shots in net for Hamilton. Nineteen of those came in the third period.
McMichael ended the game with a goal and an assist against his old team
Dale Hunter was honoured with a standing ovation in the first period by the Budweiser Gardens crowd for his 800th victory. The cheers brought a smile and a couple of waves from Hunter on the Knights bench.
The Knights will play the Guelph Storm on Sunday afternoon at Budweiser Gardens as they pull on their “Spider-Knight” jerseys for Superhero Day.
How the goals were scored
Jonathan Gruden took a slick pass from Kirill Steklov just 2:28 into the opening period and wristed a hard shot past Zachary Roy for a 1-0 London lead. Gruden’s father Jon Gruden coached the Bulldogs to an Ontario Hockey League championship and a Memorial Cup in 2018. Jonathan Gruden scored the first two goals of his OHL career against his dad’s old team in September in Hamilton.
Connor McMichael gave London a 2-0 lead as he ripped a shot high into the Bulldogs net with just under three minutes remaining in the opening period. The goal stretched McMichael’s point streak to nine games.
Bradey Johnson scored the only goal of the second period as he banged in his own rebound at the 15:16 mark.
Luke Evangelista squeezed a puck through Roy off a faceoff in the Hamilton end just 1:46 into the third period.
Gruden finished the scoring with an unasssisted empty-netter with just under 10 seconds left.
Dale Hunter gets 800
When the London Knights defeated the Windsor Spitfires 6-3 in Windsor, Ont., on Jan. 23, Knights head coach Dale Hunter became the fastest coach in Ontario Hockey League history to win 800 regular season games. Hunter is now just 107 victories behind the late Bert Templeton for second place on the all-time list. Brian Kilrea sits in first place with 1193 career victories. London assistant coach Dylan Hunter says as much as the hockey world zeroes in on those numbers, Dale isn’t one to keep count.
“It’s not about the win column or where they place. For a lot of guys it’s just natural to want to be at the top; for him, it’s trying to find new things in the game.”
Connor McMichael streaking again
Connor McMichael is a game away from double-digits in his latest scoring streak. The leading scorer on the London Knights roster has only played 33 games this year, but McMichael has put each of those games to good use. He is second in the Ontario Hockey League in points per game, second in goals scored and third in points. McMichael has been held off the scoresheet exactly twice all year.
The first time was Oct. 2 in Saginaw, Mich., and the next time was almost two months later on Dec. 12 in Peterborough, Ont. McMichael has posted scoring streaks of six games, 17 games and now nine games so far. In the middle of all of that he helped Team Canada to capture gold at the World Junior Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic.
READ MORE: Patrick Kane honoured at Budweiser Gardens
Markus Phillips of the London Knights will go head-to-head with a few former teammates that he won an OHL Championship with in May 2019. Phillips and the Knights host the Guelph Storm on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens. The teams will play each other six times this season, but at this point they have only played one of those games. London won it 3-1 in Guelph on Dec. 8.
The Storm found their way to the top of the OHL’s Western Conference standings earlier this season but have been having trouble coming up with wins recently.
Coverage will begin at 1:30 on 980 CFPL at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.