The London Knights held Superhero Day on Saturday at Budweiser Gardens and it came at the perfect time as it pitted the two top teams in the OHL head-to-head.
Both the Knights and the Ottawa 67s turned in efforts that would have had guys like Ironman, Superman and Deadpool exhausted. In the end, the Knights skated off into the sunset with a 5-3 victory that brought them to within three points of catching Ottawa for first overall in the standings. London still has three games in hand to use as well.
The game proved to both teams that they can hit the level it takes to be competitive in junior hockey. If they happen to meet again, they will be the last two teams left standing, and both know they will have long roads to go through to get there.
Shots and scoring chances were as tough to come by as a compliment from Lex Luthor. The Knights outshot Ottawa 29-25.
London held one-goal leads after the first and second periods. Ottawa did not lead at any point during the game.
It was the Knights’ second win of the weekend. In a span of just under 24 hours, they doused the Saginaw Spirit, who were the hottest team in the league heading into the game before being defeated.
The Knights now head for Kitchener on Sunday afternoon, while Ottawa will get another big test in Guelph.
How the goals were scored
After killing off a 5-on-3 Ottawa man advantage, the Knights went to a power play of their own and scored the first goal of the game at 4:29 of the first period. Adam Boqvist sizzled a pass to Connor McMichael at the side of the net and he tapped the puck behind 67s goalie Michael DiPietro.
Connor McMichael scored yet another Mac Attack goal to make it 2-0 London 7:15 into the second period. Paul Cotter drove hard to the net and put a puck off the pads of DiPietro. McMichael came zooming into the slot and hammered home the rebound.
Sasha Chmelevski got Ottawa’s first goal as a shot by Kody Clark sailed wide, but came off the end boards right to the stick of the former Sarnia Sting forward. He then knocked in his 13th goal of the season and the score sat 2-1 through 40 minutes.
The 67s tied the game 2-2 on a goal by former Erie Otter Kyle Maksimovich a little over seven minutes into the third period as he backhanded a puck by Joseph Raaymakers.
Off-setting minors to Raaymakers and Ottawa defenceman Kevin Bahl in the third period set up a 4-on-4 on the ice and that opened a door for London.
A 3-on-1 for the Knights saw Riley Coome and Kevin Hancock execute a give-and-go that Hancock finished by slicing a shot high over DiPetro to give London a 3-2 edge.
Just 44 seconds after that, Evan Bouchard swung a pass to Josh Nelson and he scored to put London ahead by two goals.
Ottawa’s Sam Bitten tightened the score to 4-3 with 8:46 to play and then got a chance on a power play with just over two and half minutes remaining.
Evan Bouchard managed to shovel a puck ahead to Liam Foudy and Foudy dipped, dodged and dove through 67s players until he crossed the blue line and found the back of the empty net to close out the scoring 5-3.
Eggplant and Teal
As part of their Superhero game, the London Knights reached back for a piece of their history that fans affectionately refer to as “Spider-Knight.”
The logo adorned the Knights uniform from 1994-95 until very late in the 2001-02 season, when the traditional green and gold colours of the franchise were brought back. London pulled on the retro-look of their old eggplant and teal uniforms against the Ottawa 67’s. They represent some of the lowest points in Knights history and some much brighter spots, as well. London was wearing them in 1995-96 when they went 3-60-3. Three years later, that same uniform saw London get to game seven of the OHL Championship series against the Belleville Bulls, nearly earning the franchise’s first J. Ross Robertson Cup title and trip to the Memorial Cup.
In the first season under Mark and Dale Hunter, that uniform also saw an unpredictable finish to the season that led London into the playoffs. The Knights needed to go 3-0 in their final week and needed Kitchener to lose all four of their remaining games. It happened, kicking off a streak of playoff berths under Hunter ownership that is still going today.
Rick Nash first stepped on the ice in London at the Ice House in the summer of 2000 as the first-ever drafted player by Mark and Dale Hunter as the owners of the London Knights. After two years in a London uniform, Nash was selected first overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and immediately began his National Hockey League career. It lasted 16 years and 1060 games and the Brampton native score 437 goals and add 368 assists.
Nash won gold with Canada at the World Hockey Championship, where he starred in four appearances. Nash had 44 points in 36 games. He was also a big contributor on two Olympic gold medal-winning teams in Vancouver, B.C. in 2010 and in Sochi, Russia in 2014.
Londoners on the move
Minor hockey programs in London do a very good job of producing hockey talent.
This year has seen a great deal of London’s OHL talent traded. It all started back in early October, when the London Knights acquired Will Lochead from the Niagara Ice Dogs. Lochead was attending Western University and took advantage of an opportunity to play one more season of major junior. In December, the Barrie Colts sent their captain and one of Lochead’s old minor hockey teammates, Justin Murray, to the Saginaw Spirit. Sarnia then traded goaltender Aidan Hughes to Oshawa and Aiden Prueter joined the Spirit in the deal that brought Saginaw Owen Tippett. Finally, Nick Suzuki joined his old Jr. Knights teammate, Isaac Ratcliffe in Guelph.
That deal also saw Mark Wooley of St. Thomas moved to Owen Sound.
The Knights will complete three games in less than 46 hours with a trip to Kitchener for a 2 p.m. start on Sunday. So far, London is 2-0. They executed a surgical performance against Saginaw on Friday, handing the Spirit their first regulation loss in 13 games. Paul Cotter scored twice and Joseph Raaymakers made 27 saves. Against the 67s, they held on through a late power play to win 5-3.
The Knights and Rangers have met three times this season and the Knights have won by scores of 6-2, 3-0 and 5-1. Joseph Raaymakers made 30 saves for his second shutout in a London uniform in the Knights’ only visit to the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium this year.
Coverage begins at 1:30 on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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