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London Knights double up Guelph Storm 4-2 in mid-week matchup

London Knights defenceman Ethan MacKinnon watched a puck he shot go down the ice and into an empty Guelph Storm net in the final minute of the third period and felt a sigh of relief.

First the Londoner had sealed a 4-2 win over the Guelph Storm in a hard-fought contest between two division rivals who just happen to be two of the top contenders in the Western Conference in 2022.

Second, the goal was MacKinnon’s first in the Ontario Hockey League after coming as close as a disallowed marker earlier in the season.

The play left MacKinnon, his teammates and the 500 fans in attendance at Budweiser Gardens on a Wednesday night smiling.

The victory was London’s fifth in their past seven games and it erased any thought that a two game blip against Kitchener and Windsor the weekend before might turn into anything other than that.

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Tonio Stranges scored his fourth goal and picked up his 10th point in his past six games as he blazed in alone from the blue line and shot the puck low on the blocker side for the eventual game winner, just one minute and 23 seconds into the third period to break a 2-2 tie and put the Knights ahead to stay.

London began the game with two early power plays that gave them just shy of six minutes of power play time but were held off the board by the Storm penalty kill.

Back at even strength, the Knights cashed in as Liam Gilmartin worked to get the puck out of the left corner of the Guelph zone, got it to the net and then knocked in his own rebound at the 7:59 mark of the first period for a 1-0 London lead.

Matthew Poitras of the Storm fought his way to the goal line and converted a Jake Karabela pass to tie the game at 16:17.

With less than a minute remaining in the opening period Matthew Papais found Poitras from the left side of the Knights end and Poitras snapped in his second of the game to send the teams to their dressing rooms with Guelph ahead by a goal.

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Landon Sim tied the game at 7:45 of the second period as he set himself up in front of the Storm net and, with Luke Evangelista and Luka Profaca, tangled up at the side of the net and provided a bit of a distraction.

Sean McGurn found Sim and he fired a puck high over Guelph goalie Owen Bennett to make it 2-2 at that point.

The Storm outshot London 27-24.

Neither team scored a goal on the power play over a combined nine attempts. The Knights had four opportunities with the man advantage and Guelph had five.

Two top prospects

Knights defenceman Isaiah George and forward Ruslan Gazizov have both been named to the 2022 Top Prospects Game in Kitchener, Ont., on March 23. George has been opening the eyes of scouts since stepping onto the ice in London back in the fall.

George was a sixth round pick of the Knights in 2020 and leads all OHL rookies in plus/minus at a plus-26. George ranks fourth overall in the league in that category. Gazizov joined the London roster seven games into the 2021-22 season and exploded onto the scene with seven points in his first four games.

The Top Prospects game brings together the top-40 prospects for the NHL Entry Draft who are currently playing in the Canadian Hockey League.

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Read more: New dates announced for 2022 Memorial Cup in Saint John

Drew Doughty at 1000

Londoner Drew Doughty played in his 1000th National Hockey League game on Feb. 15 against the Edmonton Oilers in Los Angeles.

Doughty was a former London Jr. Knight who played with Logan Couture before entering the OHL with the Guelph Storm in 2005-06. Born in December of 1989, Doughty was not eligible for the NHL Entry Draft until he was 19 and he was selected second overall by the Kings behind Steven Stamkos of the Sarnia Sting.

Like Stamkos, Doughty went straight to the NHL and became a star. Doughty has helped Los Angeles to two Stanley Cup championships while also winning two gold medals at the Olympics and also helping Canada to a World Cup.

Memorial Cup tournament moved

The 2022 Memorial Cup tournament is still going to be held in Saint John, N.B., but it will now happen near the end of June. The original plan had it starting on June 4 but because of postponements in the Ontario Hockey League and the Western Hockey League and a long pause in the QMJHL that saw no games played for much of December and all of January, the move became necessary to provide the three leagues with the flexibility to make up games that had been missed.

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The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are still the reigning Memorial Cup champions. They won in 2019 in Halifax and there has not been a Memorial Cup tournament since.

Read more: Windsor Spitfires knock off London Knights at the WFCU Centre

Up next

London will host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for just the second time this season on Friday, Feb. 18 at Budweiser Gardens. The game will mark the first time that the Knights will play in front of a crowd of more than 500 people dating back to Dec. 18 in Guelph. London had 7,865 fans for their final home game before the holiday break on Dec. 11.

The Knights defeated the Greyhounds 7-4 on Nov. 12 in a game that saw Max McCue of London score twice and add an assist and Knights forward Ruslan Gazizov act the part of the maestro as he finished with three assists.

London and Sault Ste. Marie will meet for back-to-back games in the Sault on Feb. 25 and 26.

Coverage of all games can be heard beginning 30 minutes before puck drop on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

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