Josh Nelson scored the overtime winner for the London Knights as they defeated the Niagara IceDogs 3-2 at Budweiser Gardens on Friday night.
In a game that saw the teams take turns acting as each other’s shadow, the Knights hung tight despite being down five regulars and took advantage of opportunities when they came.
Jordan Kooy made 38 saves in net for London, with 17 of those stops in the second period alone.
Stephen Dhillon faced 28 shots in net for the IceDogs, who were without OHL leading scorer Jason Robertson. The IceDogs player is attending the final selection camp with Team USA ahead of the World Junior Hockey Championship.
London was missing Evan Bouchard, Alex Formenton, Liam Foudy and Adam Boqvist. All are away at World Junior selection camps, while Matvey Guskov is also with Russia at the World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, Alta.
The win kept the Knights two points ahead of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for first place in the Western Conference. The Greyhounds beat Mississauga 3-2 in overtime on Friday. London has three games in hand on Sault Ste.
The Knights tied the game late in the period as Tonio Stranges forced a turnover just outside the blue line that created a two-on-one with Nathan Dunkley. Stranges fed Dunkley, and he slipped the puck through the legs of Dhillon for his 10th goal of the season.
Niagara went ahead on a power-play goal by Oliver Castleman at 5:07 of the second period, and then Londoner Will Lochead tied the game on a Knight power-play goal against his old team. The puck bounced to Lochead in the slot, and he ripped a wrist shot into the IceDogs’ net with 3:28 to go in the middle period.
The score stayed that way until overtime, when Matthew Timms fed Nelson in the high slot, and Nelson wristed a low shot past Dhillon for the game winner.
Josh Nelson of the London Knights celebrates his overtime winner against the Niagara Ice Dogs.
Bouchard, Formenton and Suzuki still with Team Canada
Following their final exhibition game against the U Sports all-stars, Team Canada made moves ahead of the World Junior Hockey Championship in Vancouver and Victoria. Due to injuries, the final roster has not been announced, but both 18-year old Foudy of the London Knights and 19-year old Londoner Isaac Ratcliffe of the Guelph Storm were released. Gabe Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan both have injuries so decisions on whether they play or don’t play will still have to be made. Various reports on Friday night indicated that Knights forward Formenton would miss the entire tournament with a knee injury he suffered on Wednesday night in an exhibition game. Knights captain Bouchard and Londoner Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack remain with Team Canada.
The up-and-down suspension
Owen Tippett of the Mississauga Steelheads flipped a foam puck that was lying on the ice to a fan seated in the stands at the Hershey Centre on Dec. 8. It is illegal for any player to flip a puck over the glass with his stick, and the punishment is always set at five games. At first, there were reports that Tippett would be suspended one game since the puck was made of foam, but on Wednesday, Dec. 12, the suspension was listed as five games long on the Ontario Hockey League’s website.
Not long after that, the suspension was removed, and it has been reported the penalty has been changed back to a one-game ban. That decision makes Tippett eligible for every World Junior game. The International Ice Hockey Federation upholds league suspensions, and had the punishment remained at five games, Tippett would have been forced to sit out for Team Canada until it was over.
Ryan Merkley traded
Right before the Guelph Storm met the Peterborough Petes on Friday night in Guelph, Storm general manager George Burnett traded defenceman and first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks Ryan Merkley to the Petes. Merkley may have switched dressing rooms, but he didn’t put on a new sweater and play his first game for his new team against the team that drafted him first overall in the 2016 OHL priority selection. He will make his Petes debut on Sunday against Ottawa. In exchange for Merkley, Guelph received forward Pavel Gogolev, two second-round picks, two third-round picks and a fourth-rounder.
The Knights will play their final game on Sunday before an extended break over the holidays. London will host the Erie Otters at 2 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens. The teams have met twice this year, and the Knights have won both games by scores of 6-3 and 8-1. After the game, London will be off until Dec. 28, when they return to Budweiser Gardens to host Windsor. The Knights will then play a game on Dec. 30 in Sarnia and Dec. 31 against the Sting in London. That will complete the season series between Sarnia and the Knights.
You can hear coverage of every game on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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