Two early power play goals got the London Knights going in their return to the ice on Wednesday night as they defeated the Erie Otters 4-2 at Budweiser Gardens.
As Easton Cowan and then George Diaco wired wrist shots into the Erie net and celebrated with their teammates each took a moment to point to the rafters at Budweiser Gardens as a tribute to Abakar Kazbekov whose life was remembered in a ceremony and video tribute prior to the game. Kazbekov lost his life on Dec. 17.
Diaco flew across the Otters blue line mid-way through the opening period on a London man advantage and fed Cowan in the slot.
Just over a minute later Diaco was the recipient of a Logan Mailloux pass and scored his 15th goal of the year to make it 2-0.
The Otters scored the lone goal of the second period as Noah Sedore flipped an Ondrej Molnar rebound into the Knight net to cut the Knights lead to 2-1.
London restored their two goal lead in the third period when Isaiah George went hard to the Erie net and stuffed a shot on goal that Lalonde stopped only to have Knights co-captain Sean McGurn chip in the rebound.
George then iced the game with a 200-foot bank shot from his own zone, down the ice and into an empty net to finish the scoring at 4-1.
Kaleb Smith of the Otters deflected a puck in with just 37.5 seconds remaining in the third period.
George and McGurn had a goal and an assist in the game and Diaco had a goal and two assists.
Brett Brochu made 23 saves for London and also picked up an assist in the game
The Knights outshot Erie 31-25.
The London victory coupled with a Windsor Spitfires loss to Guelph moved the Knights into first place in the OHL’s Western Conference as they head into a home-and-home series with the Sarnia Sting.
Local connections into Spengler Cup quarter-finals
Team Canada will face Orebro from Sweden in a quarter-final matchup at the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switz., on Thursday, Dec. 29. Londoner Connor Hughes has been in goal for one of Canada’s games and former Knight Michael Hutchinson started for Canada in the other. London’s Doug Stacey is with Team Canada as the club’s athletic therapist.
The Knights will meet the Sarnia Sting for the first time in the 2022-23 regular season on Friday, Dec. 30 in Sarnia, Ont., in the first of a home-and-home series to end the calendar year. The teams will play in London, Ont., at 4 p,.m. on Dec. 31.
The Sting have made it clear they are loading up for what they hope is a long run this year. Sarnia added Dallas Stars prospect Christian Kyrou in a trade with the Erie Otters on Dec. 14 after acquiring Sasha Pastujov from the Guelph Storm in November.
Coverage will begin at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.