A four-goal explosion in the second period by the London Knights propelled them to a 6-3 win over the Spitfires in Windsor, Ont., on Saturday night.
The victory was the 900th of Dale Hunter’s OHL head coaching career and made him the fastest OHL coach ever to reach that milestone.
Hunter now trails the late Bert Templeton by just seven victories for second place on the all-time OHL coaching wins list. Brian Kilrea sits in first place on that list with 1194 career coaching victories.
For the second night in a row against Windsor, London ran into some huge stops from a Spitfires goalkeeper as former Knight Matt Onuska turned aside 15 first period shots.
Londoner Brett Harrison opened the scoring for Windsor on a wrist shot that found its way through a screen and past Zach Bowen at 5:49 of the first period.
The Knights continued to keep up the pressure in the second period and broke through with two goals 18 seconds apart. The first came on a shot through a screen by Jackson Edward and then Brody Crane sent Easton Cowan in on goal for his 18th of the year at London had their first lead at the 5:58 mark of period two.
Crane added to that with a goal of his own at 10:05 giving him nine points in six games against the Spitfires this season.
Before the middle period ended the Knights made it 4-1 when Isaiah George grabbed a puck the bounced to him outside the Windsor blue line and snapped it behind Onuska.
A Spitfires power play goal just over three minutes into the third period cut into the London lead but a pair of short-handed goals 33 seconds apart on a beautiful individual effort by Jacob Julien and then on Cowan’s 19th of the year as he fired a shot high and in.
A long-range shot at the Knight net by Windsor defenceman James Jodoin went in with just over three minutes remaining to wrap up the scoring.
London outshot the Spitfires 37-29.
The Knights ended their road schedule with 23 wins. That is one better than the Ottawa 67’s giving London the best record away from home in the OHL in 2022-23.
The Knights had four youngsters in the lineup giving rest days to co-captains George Diaco and Sean McGurn along with veteran forward Ryan Winterton and second-year centre Denver Barkey. Defenceman Ethan MacKinnon was also given the night off.
Kaeden Johnston, Will Nicholl, Mike Levin and Sam O’Reilly all played in the game for London.
A 7-3 Guelph Storm win in Saginaw, Mich., on Saturday guaranteed that the Knights and Storm cannot meet in round one of the post-season.
That leaves two games to decide the final two Western Conference series.
London will host Kitchener on Sunday afternoon while the Owen Sound Attack visit the Spirit.
Depending on the outcome of those games the Knights will wind up meeting the Rangers or Owen Sound in the first round.
The attendance at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ont., was the third largest in the building’s history behind only opening night and the 2017 Memorial Cup final.
After recording a hat trick in London, Ont., on Friday, Alex Christopoulos of the Spitfires was held at 49 goals on the season.
London Jr. Knights set for OHL Cup
The U16 London Jr. Knights will open the OHL Cup tournament on Wednesday, March 29 at 4 p.m. against a wild card team yet to be determined. The Jr. Knights are coached by former London captain Danny Syvret and posted a 27-2-4 record in the regular season.
They lead the Alliance with 173 goals in just 33 games. The Jr. Knights defeated the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs seven points to three in their opening series in the Alliance playdowns. London then knocked off the Sun County Panthers six points to two.
The Jr. Knights will face the Waterloo Wolves for the Alliance championship that is scheduled for Ap. 5 to Apr. 14 following the OHL Cup.
Big year for Knights 2021 draft pick
Forward Jonathan Castagna was selected by the Knights in the eighth round of the 2021 OHL Priority Selection. He has wrapped up a big offensive year at St. Andrew’s College that saw Castagna record 29 goals and 72 points in 50 games.
The Toronto, Ont., native is slated to play next season for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League and has been rated as the 135th best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
The Knights will play their final game of the 2022-23 regular season at home against the Kitchener Rangers on March 26 at 6 p.m.
The game has a chance to be a preview of a first round series between the teams.
The clubs would be meeting for the second year in a row in the exact same matchup.
Last year the number seven seeded Rangers defeated London in overtime of Game 7.
The Knights have gone 4-1 against Kitchener so far this year.
Coverage will begin at 5:30 p.m. on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.