A next-player-up mentality can be very useful in sports.
The London Knights demonstrated just how useful with a 3-1 victory over the Oshawa Generals on Sunday evening at Budweiser Gardens.
London entered the game missing 30-goal scorer Jonathan Gruden, who was cut by a skate on Friday night against the Sarnia Sting, and Alec Regula, who was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered on Saturday night against the Owen Sound Attack. They lost Markus Phillips to a game misconduct in the second period and played 10 minutes of game time without Ryan Merkley and found a way to win for the seventh game in a row.
Compounding the challenge for the Knights was the fact that they were playing for the third time in three days and had come back from a road trip in Owen Sound on Saturday to a time change that cost them an hour early Sunday morning.
Liam Foudy set up Connor McMichael for the game winner with just 2:10 remaining in regulation. Foudy stretched his point streak to 18 games in the first period as he took a feed from Kirill Steklov in the slot and ripped a shot past former teammate Jordan Kooy in the Generals net for his 28th goal of the season and first goal of the game.
Oshawa tied the game on a second-period power play as Brett Neumann converted a bang-bang feed from Allan McShane who was stationed in behind the London net. That tied things 1-1.
That’s when the London bench shrunk just a little bit more. Phillips had logged lots of ice in the first period in the absence of Regula but the Knights lost Phillips after he was called for a slew-footing major penalty at the 9:31 mark of period two. Phillips received a game misconduct and will serve a two-game suspension as well. Then just 12 seconds after a long video review confirmed the Phillips infraction, London’s Ryan Merkley was given a 10-minute misconduct. That left the Knights without their three most veteran defenceman but they killed off the major penalty and went into the third period tied 1-1.
Matvey Guskov finished the scoring with a breakaway empty-netter at 18:28 of the third period.
Brett Brochu earned his 32nd victory of the season. He now has more wins than any other first-year 17-year-old goalie in OHL history. Brochu had been tied with Andrew Loverock and John Vanbiesbrouck, but with 24 saves against the Generals, he now sits all by himself in the record books.
London sits all by themselves atop the Western Conference standings heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. The Kitchener Rangers and Saginaw Spirit also won games on Sunday. The Knights lead the Spirit by five points and they lead the Rangers by seven. All three clubs have six games remaining.
Next for the Knights is a game against the Flint Firebirds at Budweiser Gardens on Friday, March 13, at 7:30.
When Connor McMichael of the Knights snapped a low shot past Benjamin Gaudreau of the Sarnia Sting on March 6 at Budweiser Gardens, he became the 52nd player in London’s history to hit the 100-point mark in a single season. If McMichael were to keep up his present scoring pace and play in all six games that the Knights have left in the regular season, he could top out at 112 points which would rank the Washington Capitals prospect would tie Dennis Maruk and Jim McRae for the 32 highest single-season point total by a member of the Knights. Maruk is also tied with Patrick Kane and Rob Schremp for the third-highest point total at 145. Dennis Ververgaert ranks second thanks to a 147-point season in 1972-73. Dave Simpson still holds the London record for most points in a season. The London native had 155 points in 68 games in 1981-82.
No Knights vs. Sting playoff meeting yet again
The last time the London Knights met the Sarnia Sting in the OHL playoffs Y2K had not happened yet. The world survived that and London and Sarnia have survived 21 straight seasons without going head to head outside the regular season. The odds of that happening are actually growing long given the number of playoff series the Knights have played since 1999. Sarnia was eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday night guaranteeing no meeting in 2020.
London has played the Soo Greyhounds twice and they have gone up against the other seven teams in the Western Conference at least three times each. The Knights have played Owen Sound five times, Kitchener and Owen Sound six times, Guelph seven times and there have been eight series between London and the Windsor Spitfires.
The Knights have been able to meet the Niagara IceDogs twice. It takes three series wins by both teams in the same year for that to happen. For London and the Sting to face each other, all it takes is for the seeds in the West to line up and that just doesn’t seem to want to happen.
The London Knights will play back-to-back home games starting on Friday the 13th against the Flint Firebirds and continuing on the 14th at 4 p.m. as they face Sault Ste. Marie.
The games will close out London’s season series against both clubs.
London has won two of three so far against the Firebirds. The Knights two victories have come at the Dort Federal Event Center in Michigan. The last one saw Luke Evangelista score the game winner in overtime. Right now Flint is sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference.
After three straight seasons without a win against the Soo Greyhounds, the Knights have a chance to sweep Sault Ste. Marie in 2019-20. So far London has outscored the Greyhounds 17-8 in three games this year.
Coverage of the game against Flint on March 13 will start at 6:30 p.m. on 980 CFPL. The pre-game show will get underway at 3:30 p.m. against Sault Ste. Marie. The games can also be heard at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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