The London Knights came into Friday’s Game 5 matchup with the Windsor Spitfires on the brink of elimination from the OHL playoffs. It’s a long way from where they found themselves last year – winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup as the OHL champions and eventually winning the Memorial Cup.
But they’re a Dale Hunter coached team and even under adversity, the head coach maintained that unreadable poker face, while his team knew exactly what was on the line.
Who Knew Knights Could Fly?
As such, the Knights came out flying in the first 20 minutes of play. They managed to break down the Spitfires defensive setup and get pucks on Michael DiPietro who’s been a rock for Windsor so far in their first-round series.
With their quick start, the Knights managed an early power play opportunity when Austin McEneny was whistled just over a minute into the game for tripping Janne Kuokkanen behind the Spitfires net. The London power play looked abysmal, unable to set up in the offensive zone and the Spits killed it off.
While the Knights were able to out shoot their opponent 12-7 through the first 20 minutes, the Spitfires didn’t actually get their first shot of the game until about seven minutes in. For the most part, London kept them to the outside with only a handful of decent opportunities coming late in the frame for the Spitfires.
Just after Windsor recorded their first shot, Evan Bouchard got a chance from the point. The original shot was stopped by DiPietro, who was on his game again on Friday, but the rebound was picked up and buried by Robert Thomas in front to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
Graham Knott took a slashing penalty on Max Jones as the two got tangled up late in the period and when he returned to the ice after the Spitfires killed it off, Jones picked up two minutes of his own tripping Knott – a penalty that carried over to the second period.
Spits’ Up and Down Period
It took the Spits just 21 seconds to get back in the game to begin the second period. After a quick toe save by Parsons, Maple Leafs’ prospect Jeremy Bracco picked up the rebound and fired it into the open cage behind the Knights goaltender.
From there, the Knights went back to the penalty kill with Brandon Crawley taking a holding penalty just three minutes after the tying goal. But the Knights were able to kill that off and go right back on the board.
Yet another point shot by Mitchell Vande Sompel led to a rebound that was picked up by another Mitchell. This time, Stephens grabbed the loose puck, stick-handled around DiPietro who was down and out and gave his Knights a 2-1 lead.
Sixteen minutes into the frame, Thomas and Adam Laishram were sent off for coincidental roughing minors before Jones was whistled for his second penalty of the game just 31 seconds later. The Knights were able to kill that one off as well and escaped a period dominated by Windsor with the lead and a 18-17 shot advantage.
Holding On For Tomorrow
The Knights kept that momentum in the third, shutting down another three Windsor power plays to give them six successful kills on the night. It helped that Parsons was once again spectacular through the final frame – even robbing Jeremiah Addison on a shorthanded chance alone in front of the Knights net.
London scrambled in the dying seconds of the period and Sergachev was able to get one last chance, but fired it just wide of the Knights’ cage as the buzzer sounded.
Once again the Knights got themselves into way too much penalty trouble in Game 5, but fortunately for them the Spitfires couldn’t capitalize on any of their opportunities. With the series head back to Windsor for Game 6, the Knights will have to stay out of the box if they want to play another game in London this season.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.