It took seven goals, but the London Knights remained in first place overall in the Ontario Hockey League standings.
London defeated a relentless team of Soo Greyhounds 7-4 at Budweiser Gardens on Friday night in a game that saw the Knights build a 5-1 lead, only to have Sault Ste. Marie return to the finish line in a span of little more than three minutes divided between two periods.
The teams entered the game with the first two total points in the OHL.
Max McCue led the way for London with two goals and one assist and Ruslan Gazizov had a trio of assists to give him seven points in his first four games with the Knights.
The game flew back and forth, featuring two video reviews, hit posts, and records bursting off the crossbars in front of a near-sold out crowd of 8,949 at Budweiser Gardens.
Brody Crane’s first goal in the Ontario Hockey League started the scoring at 6:28 in the opening period. London’s Denver Barkey threw a backhand pass to Crane on the left post of the Greyhounds net and Crane hit his own rebound to join John and Ryan Held as father-son duos to score for the Knights. Brody’s father, Derrick, played in London from 1991 to 1993.
It looked like the Knights had gone 2-0 ahead on a Colton Smith power play goal later in the opening frame, but after a review, the goal was disallowed. The announced ruling said that the puck was deflected by a high pole.
Using the old line, “if you don’t succeed at first …”, Smith delivered with a power play goal early in the second for his eighth goal overall this year and that managed to put London up 2-0 in the 45 second mark.
Max McCue set up veteran Cody Morgan to put the Knights ahead by three as McCue skated to the Sault Ste. Zone Marie on a partial breakaway. When he was interrupted by a defender, he managed to pass the puck to a hard-charging Cody Morgan going to the net and the surplus forward from London scored his fourth goal of the year.
Knights goalkeeper Brett Brochu returns to the net with the intention of being even better
When a London man’s 5v3 lead came to an end just over four minutes later, Greyhounds captain Ryan O’Rourke caught a puck, ran away and scored Sault Ste. Marie to cut off the Knights advantage.
London was quick to respond when Landon Sim hit a puck to restore a three-goal lead for the Knights at 14:07 in the second period and then Londoner Max McCue took a top corner going in from the right to make it 5-1 for The Knights.
Keeping Sault Ste. Marie off the scoreboard is as easy as keeping dirt out of your eyes in a sandstorm. The Greyhounds managed to score a goal before the second period ended. Kirill Kudryavtsev broke his first OHL goal with 33 seconds left on the clock and the teams moved to second intermission with London leading 5-2.
It took Sault Ste. Marie just over two and a half minutes to cut the Knights’ lead to just one goal.
Tye Kartye turned into a power play opportunity and then St. Louis Blues draft pick Tanner Dickinson scored a minute and 53 seconds later and suddenly the teams were looking at a score of 5-4.
The speed of the game brought the teams quickly into the middle of the third period as they ran back and forth, but they couldn’t beat Brochu, Ivanov or the posts or crossbars.
With 3:50 left in regulation time, the Knights brought the puck into the Greyhounds’ net and Liam Gilmartin hit it. Sault Ste. Marie challenged the play through goalkeeper interference, but the goal held up and gave London a late breather that Max McCue took advantage of to put his second of the night on an empty goal to complete the score.
Brochu earned his 10th win of the season and stopped 29 shots in the process.
London was 2 of 7 in the power play. Greyhounds went 1 of 2.
The Knights did not have Stu Rolofs (upper body injury), Abakar Kazbekov (upper body injury), Jackson Edward (lower body injury) and backup goalkeeper Matt Onuska, who has been diagnosed with mononucleosis. Owen Flores backed Brochu.
Number 61 is number one
The Columbus Blue Jackets have announced that former London Knight forward Rick Nash will be the first Columbus player to retire his number.
Nash wore the same number 61 on the Blue Jackets that he used on the Knights. Nash was the first draft pick of the Mark and Dale Hunter era and when he joined the Knights he wanted to wear No. 13.
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His favorite player growing up in Brampton, Ontario had been Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Sundin wore 13. At the time, Knights coach Don Brankley would not allow any player to wear 13. “Branks” was superstitious. Nash asked for No. 16, but Matt Albiani was already wearing No. 16 for the Knights. When Nash arrived at the London Ice House the next day, Don Brankley had a No. 61 Knights sweater hanging at Nash’s stand.
Nash would be number 61 from then on. Columbus will hold a ceremony on Saturday, March 5, to honor Nash. His number 61 already hangs in the rafters of Budweiser Gardens.
Paul Cotter has the number one goal in the NHL
In just his second game in the National Hockey League, former Knight Paul Cotter scored his first NHL goal. The scoring began for the Vegas Golden Knights in what would eventually be a 3-2 overtime win over the Minnesota Wild.
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Cotter spent most of the 2018-19 season in London after deciding to leave Western Michigan University to pursue professional hockey. He had 26 points in 48 games for the Knights. Cotter went from London to the Chicago Wolves and then to the AHL Henderson Silver Knights and is now trying to secure a spot with the Golden Knights after they selected him in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Inning Draft.
Until next time
London heads to Erie on November 13 to face the Otters for the first time this season. Erie made a coaching change this week and chose to fire Chris Hartsburg after a 3-7-1 start. Erie has appointed longtime associate coach BJ Adams as its new head coach. Adams was part of the Otters team that won an Ontario Hockey League championship in 2017.
Coverage will begin at 7 pm with the pregame show on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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