The London Knights made a 547-day wait totally worth it as they sent their fans home happy with a season-opening 3-2 shootout victory over the Owen Sound Attack on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.
Sean McGurn scored the only goal of the shootout and Brett Brochu stopped all four Attack shots that he faced as London played the first half of a home and home with the Attack to start the 2021-22 season.
The Knights found themselves down 2-1 heading to the third period and pressed to tie the game. That press lasted 15 minutes and 17 seconds until Colton Smith was able to maneuver a puck along the left side boards past a couple of Owen Sound defenders to keep a play alive on a power play.
That puck went to Luke Evangelista and he set up Gerard Keane who wired a shot from the middle of the blue line through the legs of Attack goalie Mack Guzda, who was being screened by Smith.
Read more: Meet the 2021-22 London Knights
That set up an exciting final few minutes that featured an unexpected appearance by rookie Corbin Votary in the Owen Sound net.
The Attack called a timeout to rest players after an icing call and Guzda attempted to buy his teammates more time by taking off his equipment.
When Guzda was told to go back to his crease he wasn’t ready, so referee Alex Ross told Guzda he had to go to the bench and Votary had to take over for 3:07. Thanks to three blocked shots by St. Thomas, Ont. native Mark Woolley, he didn’t have to make a save.
Owen Sound opened the scoring in the first period on a goal by Ingersoll, Ont., native Gavin Bryant.
Landon Sim scored the first Knights goal of the season to tie the game in the second period as he took a feed from Ben Bujold just as a penalty to Isaiah George had expired. George picked up an assist on the play as well. It was Sim’s first in the Ontario Hockey League.
Colby Barlow gave the Attack their second lead with his first OHL goal on a power play just under four minutes later to make it 2-1.
Brett Brochu stopped 28 shots and was named the game’s first star.
Guzda made 22 saves in net for Owen Sound.
Leaders for a new generation
Soon after the puck dropped against the Attack, the Knights made their leadership group for 2021-22 official.
Luke Evangelista will wear the captain’s “C” for the Knights and Ben Roger and Sean McGurn will serve as alternates. Evangelista is a second-round pick of the Nashville Predators. He made his season debut on opening night after missing the exhibition schedule with an injury.
McGurn had an impressive pre-season for London with six points in four games. Roger was selected in the 2nd round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators.
Opening night and division rivals
Since moving downtown, the London Knights have compiled an opening night record of 13-5. Friday marked the first time London and Owen Sound had met in a Knights home opener at Budweiser Gardens. London enters the 2021-22 season with the best record in the OHL against their own division over the past five seasons at 79-29-5-4 for a .714 winning percentage.
The Ottawa 67’s have the next best record at .661. Mississauga is third at .616. (Statistics courtesy of Rob Matic and Geoffrey Brandow)
The Knights and Attack will meet for the second time in 24 hours on Saturday on the shores of Georgian Bay as they visit Owen Sound. The teams will see each other a total of 10 times during the 2021-22 regular season.
The J.D. MacArthur Arena can be at capacity at 4,300 seats. The pre-game show ill begin at 7:00 pm on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada App.