The London Knights ended the 2021 pre-season with a home ice win in front of the biggest crowd allowed at Budweiser Gardens since March of 2020.
The Knights scored three times in the second period only to have the Hamilton Bulldogs score three goals in the third to send the game to a shootout. Abakar Kazbekov scored the only goal in that shootout and Brett Brochu did the rest as London defeated Hamilton 4-3.
It was the first game played in London since capacity limits were increased in the province of Ontario.
And after a 6-5 shootout win in Barrie it gave London players some added practice in another shootout a night later.
Sean McGurn picked up his third goal and fifth point of the pre-season unassisted just 46 seconds into the second to get the scoring going.
Max McCue cashed in on a power play with a low snap shot from the top of the left circle to make it 2-0 at the 12:24 mark, then Colton Smith of London carried a puck across the Hamilton blue line and bought some time as Jacob Chantler of the Knights caught up on the play. Smith threaded a perfect pass to Chantler and he beat Marco Costantini for a 3-0 London lead through 40 minutes.
Hamilton struck for three third period goals courtesy of Jorian Donovan, Ryan Humphrey and Logan Morrison and sent the game to a shootout.
Brett Brochu made 30 saves in goal for the Knights in regulation and three more in the shootout and was named the game’s first star.
Marco Costantini stopped 23 shots for the Bulldogs.
London completed the pre-season with a 4-2 record and will host the Owen Sound Attack on October 8 in their regular season opener.
Adding to the experience
The Knights acquired overage forward Cody Morgan from the Flint Firebirds on Oct. 1 for a third-round pick in 2022, a sixth-round pick in 2023 and a 10th-round pick in 2024.
Morgan began his OHL career with the Kingston Frontenacs in 2017-18 and was traded to Windsor that same season in a deal that brought Kingston Gabe Vilardi and Sean Day as the Frontenacs took a run at an OHL championship.
Morgan is known for his skating and his offensive skill and is looking forward to being a mentor to the young players on the London roster.
A Keane debut
Gerard Keane got back into a Knights uniform against Hamilton for the first time since March of 2020. Keane ranks as the most experienced defenceman on the London roster and got a look at the next level with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He attended their rookie camp as an undrafted free agent and impressed to the point that he was invited to the Jackets’ main camp. Keane’s brother Joey (also a former Knight) is a prospect with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Gerard and Joey have two other brothers who are also defencemen.
From here on, all games will count. The London Knights begin the regular season at home against the Owen Sound Attack on Oct. 8 at 7:30 pm. The teams will clash the next night as well in Owen Sound.
London’s regular season schedule will not feature a single team from the Eastern Conference as the OHL attempts to reduce the amount of travel that each team has. The Knights will face the Attack, the Sarnia Sting, the Kitchener Rangers and the Guelph Storm 10 times each in 2021-22.