The London Knights kicked off an incredibly tough 24 hours with a 4-1 victory over the Saginaw Spirit on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.
The Spirit came into the game as the hottest team in the Ontario Hockey League, having not lost in regulation since Dec. 6. They had rolled through a 12-game span at 11-0-1.
Not to be outdone, the Knights had just two regulation time losses going all the way back to Oct. 19.
Through one period, the score was 0-0 and the shots were 7-4 London, showing both teams and the sell-out crowd in attendance that neither team was prepared to give an inch.
“You saw the shot count early on,” said Knights goalie Joseph Raaymakers. “The guys played really well defensively and kept their team to the outside. Our wingers were blocking a lot of shots as well and that makes a big difference.”
Joseph Raaymakers makes one of his 27 saves on Friday night in a game against the Spirit.
When the scoring finally started, Paul Cotter picked up a pair of goals for London, giving him four points in his last two games. Liam Foudy and Kevin Hancock had the others.
The Spirit outshot the Knights 28-26.
The victory kept London two points ahead of Sault Ste. Marie for first place in the Western Conference.
The Knights host league-leading Ottawa on Saturday afternoon at 3:30. London is five points back of the 67’s with three games in hand.
How the goals were scored
Ryan McLeod opened the scoring, but it didn’t happen until the 47-second mark of the second period and it gave Saginaw a 1-0 lead.
The Knights tied the game right off a face-off in Spirit territory less than five minutes later when Paul Cotter whipped a shot past Ivan Prosvetov.
Just 31 seconds after that, Liam Foudy took a pass and cut to the Spirit net alone only to be tripped up. Foudy was awarded a penalty shot and made good on it using a nice move in from the left side to put London up 2-1.
Cotter tipped in his second goal of the game and sixth of the season at 5:11 of the third period and the Kevin Hancock took a pass from Adam Boqvist that sent him in alone with an empty net for his second goal as a Knight and 33rd of the year.
He 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, Rick 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 scored 437 goals and had 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.
The passing of the trade deadlines
Jan. 9 and Jan. 10 saw the overage trade deadline and the final trade deadline come and go in the Ontario Hockey League. From the end of the trade freeze over the holidays on Dec. 28 until the clock ticked finished, there were a total of 43 trades involving 61 players and 95 draft picks. Guelph was by far the busiest team in the final week. They added six new players from Saturday to Wednesday, including Londoner Nick Suzuki.
Knights make two final deals
Something that can be overlooked in major junior hockey is the fact that the OHL, QMJHL and WHL are developmental leagues. London General Manager Mark Hunter was able to make a trade with Owen Sound to find Sergey Popov more ice time than he was able to get for the Knights. London received a sixth-round pick in return. The Knights also sent defenceman and Minnesota Wild draft pick Jacob Golden to the Erie Otters for a conditional third-round pick and a fourth rounder. That deal allows Golden to play in a 1-2 defensive pairing in a bid to earn an NHL contract from the Wild.
You can hear the broadcast at 3 p.m. on 980 CFPL at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
The Knights will visit the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday at 2 p.m. The pregame show will get going at 1:30 p.m. with Mike Stubbs and Jim Van Horne from the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.
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