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Big third period gives London Knights the victory in Guelph

Third period goals by London Knights Sean McGurn, Tonio Stranges and Luke Evangelista turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 win over the Storm in Guelph on Saturday night.

Bad bounces dogged London in two of the first three games they played against the Storm this season. One resulted in an overtime winner for the Storm in London. Another off a referee’s skate led to the winning goal in Guelph a couple of weeks later.

On Saturday things were different.

Cody Morgan turned the tide when he literally bounced the puck into the Guelph net off the back of goaltender Owen Bennett at 8:22 of the first period.

The Knights came out flying in the second period and peppered nine shots at Bennett in the first five minutes and 22 seconds but could not beat the Georgetown, Ont. native.

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Guelph rode those stops to the game tying goal at the 8:15 mark of the period as Jake Karabela banged in a loose puck in front of the London net to make it 1-1.

Storm rookie defenceman Michael Buchinger scored his first Ontario Hockey League goal on January 18 against Flint. He scored the second of his career on Saturday to put Guelph up 2-1 as he sent a shot through a screen and past London goalie Owen Flores.

Matthew Poitras fed Braeden Bowman under four minutes later to make it 3-1 Storm, but Knights defenceman Gerard Keane got London within a goal heading to the final 20 minutes with a hard snap shot from the slot.

The third period featured the biggest bounce in London’s favour as a point shot by Logan Mailloux hit the leg of a Guelph defender and deflected right to Sean McGurn. He had an open side to fire the puck into to tie the game 3-3.

The Storm challenged the play as goaltender interference, but after a review that lasted long enough to play “The Hockey Song” by Stompin’ Tom Connors in its entirety, the goal was counted and the game sat even halfway through the third.

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Morgan picked up a puck in centre and fed Tonio Stranges for a breakaway where he got the eventual game winning goal at 13:42 of the third.

Flores made his biggest stop of the game for in final two minutes with the Guelph net empty. Vegas Golden Knights draft pick, Daniil Chayka, skated into the slot and got a shot away that Flores snapped out of the air with his glove.

Moments later McGurn set up Luke Evangelista for an empty-netter to give London their first win over the Storm this season.

The Knights outshot the Storm 33-23.

Read more: COVID-19: Starting Jan. 22, all Canadians must be fully vaccinated to enter the U.S.

An Evangelistian pace

It will always be pointed out that anyone who scores a hat trick in their first game of an OHL season is on pace to score 204 goals. So far not a single player has been able to keep up that kind of a pace. Ernie Godden set the record for most goals in an OHL season with 87 in the 1980-81 season and it has stood ever since.

Still, London Captain Luke Evangelista has been keeping up quite the goal scoring momentum this year. Two goals against the Erie Otters on January 21 and another in Guelph on January 22 have Evangelista on pace for the first 50-goal season by a London Knight since 2015-16 when Christian Dvorak hit the number on the nose and the first 60-goal season since Patrick Kane when he put up 62 goals in 2006-07.

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If Evangelista keeps up his current production rate he would score 61 goals this year joining Kane, Dave Lowry, Dennis Maruk, Dave Simpson and Dino Ciccarelli as the only players in Knights history to top the 60-goal plateau. Ciccarelli is the all-time record holder. He had 72 goals in 1977-78.

Read more: McGurn and Evangelista lead London Knights to win to kick off three-game weekend

Houser stays hot

Former Knights goalie Michael Houser is now 4-2 as a National Hockey League goaltender with a .927 save percentage in six appearances with the Buffalo Sabres that have been spread over two seasons.

Houser won his second straight start on Saturday, January 22 as Buffalo beat the Philadelphia Flyers 6-3. Houser stopped 30 of 33 shots against the Flyers less than a week after making 44 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators.

Houser is doing in the NHL what he did in his final season with the Knights when he posted a .925 save percentage on his way to being named Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year and the Red Tilson Trophy winner as the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player.

Read more: Capacity limits for Ontario sports teams still more than a month away

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Up next

The Knights and Storm will be right back at it on Sunday afternoon in Budweiser Gardens for the fifth of ten meetings between the teams this year.

The game will mark the fourth home game London will have played without fans in attendance.

The Knights are scheduled to play the Saginaw Spirit on January 28 and 29 and the Flint Firebirds on January 30.

All games can be heard on 980 CFPL, at http://www.9890cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

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