Connor McMichael got pats on the back from his teammates and a great big hug from goaltender Brett Brochu after he scored his second goal in a game that saw the London Knights defeat Sarnia 4-1.
McMichael’s low snap shot at 11:08 of the third period allowed the Ajax, Ont., native to hit 100 points on the season for the first time in his Ontario Hockey League career.
The Washington Capitals first round posted his 31st multi-point game of the year with two goals and an assist as the Knights moved five points ahead of the Kitchener Rangers who were beaten on home ice for the second game in a row. The Rangers lost 6-4 to the Barrie Colts.
London is also five points ahead of the Saginaw Spirit who were idle on Friday.
Liam Foudy scored the only goal of the first period as he took a pass from Alec Regula at the left point in the Sarnia zone, drew a defender to him and then went around that defender and zoomed toward the net where Foudy’s initial shot was stopped. The Blue Jackets’ prospect found the rebound and batted it past Sting goalie Ben Gaudreau to make it 1-0 for the Knights through 20 minutes.
Ryan McGregor of the Sting tied the game 1-1 at the 7:25 mark of the second period as he deflected a puck past Brett Brochu.
After a Connor McMichael power play goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference, McMichael managed to find the back of the net again for a goal that made it to the scoreboard. He flipped a Foudy pass past Gaudreau to London ahead 2-1.
Alec Regula gave the Knights a 3-1 advantage as he scored his 27th goal of the year on a 5-on-3 power play with just over two minutes remaining in the second period. That goal tied Regula with Dennis Wideman for 2nd most goals by a long defenceman in a single season. Nick Stajduhar holds the London Knights record. He had 34 goals in 1993-94.
McMichael added the only goal of the final period to reach his 100-point plateau and complete the scoring.
The Knights outshot the Sting 49-21. McMichael was credited with 12 of those London shots.
Knights forward Jonathan Gruden left the game in the first period after suffering what appeared to be a cut to his leg following a collision with Gaudreau in front of the Sarnia net. Gruden did not return but his injury is not thought to be one that will keep him out long-term.
Next up for London is a trip to Owen Sound on Saturday before a Sunday evening home game against the Oshawa Generals at 6 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens.
Another year without a London/Sarnia playoff series?
It very much looks like it. In fact because Sarnia is on the brink of elimination, it is now almost a certainty that for the 21st year in a row there will be no playoff series between the teams. The odds of this streak continuing are beginning to grow very long. The Knights and Sting have faced each other just once in their franchise histories and the Sting began playing in Sarnia in 1994. To put the lack of playoffs meetings into perspective, consider this: London has played Erie, Kitchener, Guelph, Owen Sound and Windsor at least five times or more over that same time frame. The Knights have actually played the Niagara IceDogs twice in the post-season. To make that happen each team has to win three playoff series. For London and Sarnia to hook up, neither team has to win anything at all. They just have to finish in the right spots in the standings. The only time that has taken place was 1999 and the Knights won it 4 games to 2 on their way to an OHL Championship series appearance. Incidentally the head coach of the Sting that season was Knights Vice-President and General Manager, Mark Hunter.
Two big D
At this time last year Evan Bouchard and Joey Keane were on the ice in London. Bouchard was the captain of the Knights and Keane was a key veteran acquisition by London from the Barrie Colts at the trade deadline. This season the two players sit tied for 2nd among rookie defencemen in American Hockey League scoring. The only player ahead of the former Knights pair is Brogan Rafferty of the Utica Comets. Bouchard has 34 points in 52 games for the Bakersfield Condors. Keane has 34 points in 54 games split between the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Charlotte Checkers after Keane was traded to Carolina by the New York Rangers for forward Julien Gauthier ahead of the trade deadline.
Mermis scores his first
Former London Knight Dakota Mermis hit the scoresheet for the first time as a National Hockey Leaguer when he scored the second goal of the game for the New Jersey Devils in a 4-2 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues on Friday night. Mermis was recalled by the Devils last month and has appeared in eight games for them. The Alton, Ill., native played in ten NHL games for while with the Arizona Coyotes organization. Mermis was part of the Knights 2013 OHL Championship team and won a Memorial Cup with the Oshawa Generals in 2015.
READ MORE: London Knights at 40 yet again
The Knights have not seen the Attack since December 6. For basically three months they have been playing in the same division and in the same league but their paths have only crossed three times so far. That means that over London’s final nine games the teams will meet up three times beginning on Saturday night in Owen Sound.
So far the Attack have won both games played in London.
The Knights’ victory came on November 9 in Owen Sound when Liam Foudy scored twice and Connor McMichael picked up a goal and two assists.
London will return home on March 8 to host the Oshawa Generals at 6 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens. The Knights defeated the Generals in Oshawa in November in goaltender Dylan Myskiw’s first-ever start in a London uniform.
Coverage on 980 CFPL will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Games can also be heard at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.