Knights Facing Elimination in OHL Playoffs

The Windsor Spitfires are on the brink of doing something no CHL team could do in 2015-16 – eliminating the London Knights from the postseason.

Spitfires forward Graham Knott scored at 5:58 of overtime in Game 4 to give Windsor a 3-1 series lead over the Knights in the OHL’s Western Conference Quarter Final series. Knott took a loose puck in the London zone and beat Knights goaltender Tyler Parsons to give Windsor the win. Here are the highlights from the game:

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With the win, the Spitfires can eliminate the Knights in game five in London on  Friday night. During the first two games in London, the Spitfires won the opener in 4-3 in overtime but lost Game 2 5-2 thanks to a late third-period goal and two empty net goals. In Game 3 in Windsor, the Spitfires put up a huge defensive effort to earn a 3-1 win.

A close series comes as no surprise. The fourth-seeded Knights, defending Memorial Cup champions, had 99 points this season while the fifth-seeded Spitfires weren’t far behind with 90 points. They tied their head-to-head match-ups at 3-3 with each team winning all three on home ice.

Success Comes Naturally to Knights

J.J. Piccinich and Cristiano DiGiacinto

This is new territory for the Knights. During the 2015-16 season, they lost twice against Owen Sound in the first round but eliminated the Attack in six games. From there, London won 12-straight to capture the OHL title, and another four-straight to win the 2016 Memorial Cup.

In fact, it has been several years since London was eliminated in the first round. The last time was in 2011 when Owen Sound beat them in six games before winning the OHL title. Since then, the Knights won three titles — 2012, 2013 and 2016 — and were eliminated twice in the second round (2014 and 2015). Their run of success has been nothing short of impressive and a benchmark for OHL teams.

The teams have a history in the postseason, too. During Windsor’s 2009 Memorial Cup run, the Spitfires beat the Knights in five games in the Western Conference Finals. Each game in that series went into overtime. In 2011-12, London was the first seed and eliminated eighth-seeded Windsor in four games. In 2013-14, they finished four-five, but London was 26 points higher in the standings. It led to a London sweep in the first round.

Can’t Take Lead for Granted

While Windsor has the 3-1 lead in the series, they are the one team who knows that the “anything can happen” cliché is very real. During the 2004-05 playoffs, the Spitfires were down 3-0 the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Windsor chipped away, period-by-period, and won four straight one-goal games, including a double-overtime game seven on the road. It was the first time a team had done that since 1988.

During the 2009-10 playoffs, Windsor found themselves down 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals against Kitchener. It wasn’t what anyone had expected given Windsor was the defending Memorial Cup champions. They never quit, though, and won four straight against the Rangers, including a thrilling Game 7 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor. The Spitfires would go on to beat Barrie for the OHL title and then walk over the rest of the CHL on their way to back-to-back Memorial Cups.

Leaving Everything on the Ice

Memorial Cup
2016 OHL Champion London Knights

The Knights are hoping to find that same magic. Dale Hunter has created a team in London that is used to winning. It’s in their blood. After winning 13-straight OHL playoff games last year, plus four more in the Memorial Cup, they’re finding themselves in an unusual situation.

Windsor knows they’re in the 2017 Memorial Cup as the hosts. London and their fans would love to spoil the party, though. The Knights must now win three games — Friday in London, Sunday in Windsor for game six and Tuesday in London for Game 7. Otherwise, they’re watching the  Memorial Cup at home.

For Windsor, the goal seems simple but might be the toughest one this season to date. The Budweiser Gardens will be packed for game five and Windsor fans will be glued to their televisions to watch. Can the Spitfires pull off the upset or will the Knights find more playoff magic? Get your tickets and stay tuned!