The Guelph Storm edged the London Knights 3-2 on Sunday afternoon at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont., to close out a jam-packed weekend for both clubs.
Cooper Walker’s third period goal proved to be the difference as he swooped in behind the Knights net and stole a puck that London goalie Brett Brochu came out to play. Walker wrapped it around for the eventual game winner to move the Storm to within two points of London for top spot in the OHL’s Midwest Division.
Brochu of the Knights and fellow netminder Owen Bennett of the Storm kept the game from being about 4-4 after the first period. Both were called on to make big saves and each of them did. Brochu robbed Braeden Bowman with a left leg stop on a chance right in front of the net. Bennett had London forwards Ruslan Gazizov and Tonio Stranges wondering where empty nets went as he made saves at opposite sides of his net.
Danny Zhilkin found a way through late in the first period as he moved to the left side of the London zone and unleashed a wrist shot that found the back of the London net with 2:19 remaining in the opening period to give Guelph a 1-0 advantage through 20 minutes.
Guelph took a 2-0 lead, one second shy of the five-minute mark in the second period, as Sasha Pastujov set up Ben McFarlane for a one-timer on a power play.
London got on the scoreboard during a power play of their own as former Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs forward Easton Cowan snared a puck that went off the end-boards and buried it for his first Ontario Hockey League goal.
A late icing in the second period prompted Knights head coach Dale Hunter to call a timeout to rest the players he had on the ice, and the move paid off.
London kept Guelph from scoring off a faceoff in the Knights zone. Not long after that Brody Crane of Union, Ont., finished off a slick three-way passing play from Cody Morgan for his fifth goal of the year and sent the teams to the third period tied 2-2.
An early power play for the Knights led to the goal by Walker. Bennett held firm the rest of the way for Guelph.
Bennett has been putting out some of his best performances overall. He has an .876 save percentage this season. His save percentage against London is .932 in six games.
Brochu stopped 41 of 44 shots for the Knights and will look to hit the 20-win mark as the Knights play another three games in two-and-a-half days next weekend.
The positivity of George
London rookie defenceman Isaiah George has turned in a tremendous first year in the Ontario Hockey League and it isn’t even half over. George has played big minutes and demonstrated his athleticism, skill and poise from day one.
His play has scouts taking notice. He is listed as the 42nd best North American prospect for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Even playing big minutes for the Knights, George continues to hang with the top plus-minus players in the league.
He is currently second among defencemen behind only Ethan Del Mastro of the Mississauga Steelheads. London drafted George in the sixth round of the 2020 OHL Priority Selection out of the Toronto Marlboros organization.
Read more: London Knights: Back in time — May 18
Former Knight part of history
Hunter Skinner was part of a Teddy Bear toss in London, Ont., in 2019 that saw Alec Regula score against Owen Sound and 8,624 stuffed toys rain down at Budweiser Gardens.
On Saturday, January 22, Skinner was part of history as he and his Hartford Wolf Pack teammates watched as 52,341 bears and other stuffed animals were tossed by fans of the Hershey Bears in what was a world record breaking Teddy Bear Toss.
Hershey set the previous world record in 2019 with 45,650 stuffed toys. Washington Capitals prospect Axel Jonsson Fjallby scored the Teddy Bear toss goal in a 5-0 Hershey victory over Skinner and the Wolf Pack.
The Knights will play back-to-back games against the Saginaw Spirit on Friday, January 28 and Saturday, January 29 and then finish the month in Flint on January 30.
A change in provincial regulations will allow London to have 500 fans at Budweiser Gardens on Friday, February 4 when they host Windsor.
All games can be heard on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.