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London Knights knock off Greyhounds to stay atop the Western Conference

London, Ont. - Brett Brochu of the London Knights stops Jacob LeGuerrier on a 2-on-0 breakaway in the third period to help the Knights to a 4-2 victory over the Soo Greyhounds on Feb. 28, 2020 at Budweiser Gardens.
London, Ont. - Brett Brochu of the London Knights stops Jacob LeGuerrier on a 2-on-0 breakaway in the third period to help the Knights to a 4-2 victory over the Soo Greyhounds on Feb. 28, 2020 at Budweiser Gardens. Jim Van Horne/980 CFPL

Knights co-captains Liam Foudy and Alec Regula led the way offensively on Friday night as London defeated the Soo Greyhounds 4-2 at Budweiser Gardens.

Both players scored one goal and assisted on another in a game that allowed London to hang onto first place in the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference.

The three teams chasing the Knights for top spot did not make that easy on London. All three played on Friday night and all three won.

The Knights remain one point better than the Kitchener Rangers, two points ahead of the Flint Firebirds and three points up on the Saginaw Spirit as the month of February comes to a close on Saturday.

Ryan Merkley set up the opening goal of the game on a power play with less than a minute remaining in the opening period as he slid a pass into the slot to Jonathan Gruden and two shots later Gruden had it in the back of the Sault Ste. Marie net as he knocked in his own rebound to make it 1-0 London through 20 minutes.

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The Greyhounds tied the game 1-1 on rookie Kalvyn Watson’s third of the season as he came down right wing and labeled a high shot into the Knight net 2:52 into the second period.

The scored stayed tied for all of 28 seconds

Peterborough Petes’ head coach leading the team on and off the ice
Peterborough Petes’ head coach leading the team on and off the ice

Liam Foudy of the Knights grabbed a puck in the Greyhounds’ end and snapped it by Nick Malik for his 25th goal of the season to put London ahead 2-1.

Jason Willms’ second goal in two games just 11 seconds into the third period gave the Knights a cushion that they would keep into the final minute when Alec Regula potted a pong-range empty-netter from inside his own blue line and Tye Kartye popped in a very late power play marker with less than five seconds to play to complete the scoring.

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Brett Brochu earned his 28th win on the season as he continues to shine in his rookie season. That ties the mark set by Ryan MacDonald in his rookie year in London. The record for wins by a 17-year old in the OHL is 36. That’s how many games Brian Finley won for the Brampton Battalion in 1998-99. Finley was in his second year at the time. John Vanbiesbrouck owns the mark for most wins by a 17-year old OHLer in his first year. He won 31 in 1980-81 when he played in Sault Ste. Marie.

The Knights outshot the Greyhounds 39-28.

London will travel to Erie on Saturday and play the Otters at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Still owning the dot

The London Knights won an astounding 73 per cent of their faceoffs against the Guelph Storm on February 26, going 42-for-57. Knights forward Nathan Dunkley still owns the best percentage in the league at 61.5 per cent among players who have taken over 500 draws this season.

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London centre Jason Willms. who got the overtime winner in that game against the Storm, ranks third with a 60.1-per cent success rate. Willms has taken more faceoffs than anyone else in the OHL in 2019-20. Max Grondin of the Peterborough Petes ranks second in faceoff percentage. Billy Moskal of the Knights is 9th.

READ MORE: Around the OHL: By the numbers

Three Knights in NHL’s top-20

A trio of London Knights have held down spots high atop the scoring stats in the National Hockey League for much of this season.

Heading into the weekend, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane sat tied for seventh overall in NHL scoring with Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Kane, who had his number 88 raised into the rafters at Budweiser Gardens earlier this year, has 78 points in 64 games.

Washington Capitals defenceman John Carlson rocketed out of the gate offensively, taking people back to Bobby Orr’s numbers as a comparison to the start the former Knight had. Carlson is still the only defenceman among the top-32 in NHL scoring. He ranks 12th with 72 points in 64 games. Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs cracks the top-20 at number 19.

Marner is in his fourth season in the National Hockey League and sits with 63 points in 54 games.

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READ MORE: London Knights clinch playoff spot for 20th straight year

IceDogs latest to add to OHL streaks

If 2019-20 is known for anything in the history books of the OHL it will be know for the streaks teams have put together.

Thirteen teams have won at least five straight games. Conversely, 13 teams have lost at least five games in a row. Six teams have been through double-digit winning streaks and four have been through double-digit losing streaks. The Niagara IceDogs were slogging through a 14-game losing streak when they came within 13 seconds of a win over Guelph on Feb. 23 before Daniil Chayka tied it and then Cam Hillis won it in overtime. That turned the losing streak into a winless one and Niagara managed to end it four days later in Barrie.

READ MORE: Jason Willms wins it in overtime as the London Knights defeat Guelph

Up next

The Knights will finish off their season series with the Erie Otters on Sunday afternoon at the Erie Insurance Arena in Pennsylvania.

London has gone 4-0-0-1 against Erie this year. They have outscored the Otters 29-15 in those games. The two most memorable came in a span of less than a week. Thew clubs met in Erie on Oct. 26 and combined for 10 goals and a 5-5 tie through 40 minutes. The scoring went silent from there all the way to a shootout in which only one shot hit the net. It came off the stick of Chad Yetman and gave the Otters a 6-5 victory.

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On Nov. 1 at Budweiser Gardens Connor McMichael scored twice in the third period, tying the game with 1:05 remaining in regulation and then completed a hat trick and a six-point night with the overtime winner as the Knights won 7-6.

Coverage of Sunday’s game will begin at 1:30 on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.