London Knights win Valentine’s Day tilt against Kitchener Rangers

London, Ont. - Jonathan Gruden (44) watches as his shot tucks under the crossbar and into the Kitchener net in a 6-3 London Knights win over the Rangers on February 14, 2020. Jim Van Horne/980 CFPL

Four assists from Ryan Merkley helped the London Knights move to within one point of top spot in the Western Conference with a 6-3 victory over the Kitchener Rangers on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.

Merkley now has 15 assists in his past seven games, giving him 67 points on the season.

Another London defenceman continued to produce points with goals as Alec Regula scored his 19th and 20th goals of the year.

Jonathan Gruden also had two goals for the Knights in the game giving him 25 in his first season in the Ontario Hockey League.

After a scoreless first period, the teams combined to score the first four goals of the game on a parade of power plays in period two.

The Knights opened the scoring with a pair of goals that came just 30 seconds apart.

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London defenceman Ryan Merkley stretched his assist streak to seven games as he fed Connor McMichael for McMichael’s 39th goal of the year at 3:10 of the second period, as the Knights worked the puck around on a two-man advantage.

Merkley worked more of his mastery as he put the puck on the stick of Jonathan Gruden at the 3:40 mark and Gruden guided it through the legs of Rangers goalie Jacob Ingham, making it 2-0 for the Knights.

Dallas Stars draft pick Riley Damiani cut into the London lead less than four minutes later on a Kitchener man advantage as he cut into the slot and wristed a shot into the upper part of the Knight net past Brett Brochu.

With the Knights on another power play at 13:22 of the second, Merkley and Gruden struck again as Merkley carried the puck deep into the Rangers zone and then fed a pass out front to Gruden and the Senators prospect fired home his 25th goal of the year and London led 3-1.

READ MORE: ‘Around the OHL’ meets the ‘Unnamed Hockey Podcast’

Damiani got Kitchener to within a goal again before the middle period came to an end. Off the faceoff the puck went off the end boards and Damiani put it into the London net.

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Kitchener killed off a London man advantage early in the third period and then tied the game on a knuckling backhand from Ottawa, Ont., native Greg Meireles at the five-minute mark.

Merkley’s fourth assist of the game put the Knights ahead to stay. The 19-year old found Regula to the left of the Ranger net for his 19th goal.

Liam Foudy scored to make it 5-3 less than three minutes later. Foudy was playing his his fourth game in five days. Two of those were with London and the other two came in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Click to play video 'Peterborough Petes thinking ahead to playoff positioning' Peterborough Petes thinking ahead to playoff positioning
Peterborough Petes thinking ahead to playoff positioning – Feb 5, 2020

Regula ended the scoring into an empty net thanks to some great hustle from Billy Moskal to get to a puck in the Kitchener end and feed it in front.

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London’s power play went 4-for-8 overall. The Rangers went 1-for-7.

Brochu made 20 saves for his 24th win of the year in the Knight net. London put 35 pucks at Ingham at the other end of the ice.

Kitchener still leads the Western Conference with 73 points. The Knights now have 72 and have two games in hand on the Rangers.

London will be in Kingston on Saturday night. Kitchener also goes on the road to meet the Spirit in Saginaw.

Foudy picks up first NHL point

After playing his first game in the National Hockey League on Feb. 10, Liam Foudy of the London Knights got the call again three nights later.

The Columbus Blue Jackets recalled the 20-year old and inserted him into their lineup and Foudy recorded his first NHL point in a second straight overtime loss by Columbus, 4-3 in Buffalo. Foudy assisted on Boone Jenner’s 10th goal of the year just 1:31 into the second period to give the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead before the Sabres battled back.

Columbus head coach John Tortorella told the Columbus Post-Dispatch about Foudy, “I certainly liked his skating, and I liked his poise.”

READ MORE: Hockey Canada experience getting young London defencemen ready for the next level

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Joey Keane in the NHL

A fantastic first season of professional hockey has seen former London Knights and former Barrie Colts defenceman Joey Keane get a call to the National Hockey League.

The New York Rangers made the announcement on Friday that Keane would join them at the end of a road trip. Keane ranks sixth in the American Hockey League in scoring by defencemen with eight goals and 28 points in 48 games. The Homer Glen, Ill., native did not suit up in Columbus, but could play for New York as they return to Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Firebirds Flying

The Flint Firebirds have 16 games remaining in the regular season, so they have a chance to put together one of the most incredible turnarounds in OHL history. Last season, Flint went winless in their first 17 games in 2018-19 and now they are up to 11 games without a loss as they near the end of 2019-20.

Evgeniy Oksentyuk of the Firebirds is the reigning OHL Player of the Week and Ty Dellandrea has been a force for Flint since returning from the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championship. The Dallas Stars prospect has 22 points in his past ten games. The Firebirds will be home to the Guelph Storm on Saturday. Flint’s latest victory saw them knock off the Saginaw Spirit 5-4 in Saginaw, Mich.

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READ MORE: London Knights head coach Dale Hunter gets career win 800

Up next

London will spend Family Day weekend in eastern Ontario as they go to Kingston on Saturday and Ottawa on Family Day Monday afternoon.

The Knights doubled up the Frontenacs on Oct. 19 in a game that saw second-year forward Luke Evangelista score his first OHL goal. Evangelista followed that up with his second and third goals and a sombrero-clad first star selection. (All Knights players who record a hat trick on home ice receive a sombrero that is tossed onto the ice by the Hoos family).

London is also 1-0 against Ottawa this year. The Knights broke through a 40-save wall put up by 67’s goalie Cedrick Andree and won 3-0 on Oct. 4. Ottawa currently leads the overall Ontario Hockey League standings.

Coverage will get going at 6:30 from Kingston and at 1:30 from Ottawa on 980 CFPL, at and on the Radioplayer Canada app.