Knights win 8-2 in opener
London Community News
By Jonathon Brodie/London Community News / Twitter: @jonathonbrodie
The London Knights opened their season Friday (Sept. 21) at Budweiser Gardens with a banner raising ceremony for last year’s Ontario Hockey League (OHL) champions before the the game against the Erie Otters, but what fans really want to know is can the club repeat?
The Knights have some questions to answer, from who will be stopping the pucks between the pipes to who will be shoveling in the goals for London.
Fortunately for Knights' fans they might have seen a glimpse of an answer to the latter question with an 8-2 win over the Otters.
The Knights departed with four high producing forwards from last year’s team with Austin Watson, Jared Knight, Greg McKegg and Vladislav Namestnikov all leaving for the pro ranks. Add Andreas Athanasiou, scoring 22-goals for London last year, being traded to the Barrie Colts and some new faces will have to step up, as well as some familiar ones.
Max Domi will be looked upon as a leader in the stats after putting up 49 points for the Knights in his rookie season as a 16 year old and the forward hasn’t lost a step from last year by opening the scoring seven minutes into Friday’s game.
In the second period it was the Seth Griffith show with the fourth year forward scoring a hat trick within 17 minutes of the frame—one of them coming from the power play.
“Obviously, I’m here to score goals and put up points,” Griffith said, being named as the game’s first star and coming on the ice wearing a sombrero when called for his postgame celebration. “I like the penalty kill and stuff like that, so I want to play a bit more of a complete game.”
Knights Adam Restoule may be an unlikely source to score goals, but the 6-foot-3 forward had a sharpshooter’s eye with a slap shot from the slot in the first period and then capped the Knights eight goal night midway through the third period.
In the last three seasons in the OHL, Restoule played 50 games but only managed to find the back of the net once— in his first season playing for the Plymouth Whalers. He’s tripled his goal tally in just one game with London.
“I used to play against the Knights here and playing against this crowd is terribly hard, but playing with it on your side is just amazing,” Restoule said, known for his heavy hitting rather than his point getting. “Obviously, I’m more than just a one dimensional player. I liked to be a power forward too, but I got a lot of kids to protect on this team.”
Rookie Alex Broadhurst and veteran Brett Welychka also picked up goals in the second period to round out the Knights’ score.
In the crease the Knights have options, but it’s going to be tough to replace the 2011-2012 Canadian Hockey League’s top goaltender Michael Houser.
Netminder Kevin Bailie and last year’s backup Jake Patterson will be fighting for the starting role this year, but on Friday Bailie received the nod.
The fifth year goaltender faced 28 shots by games end, but a deflection from Otters’ Connor McDavid in the first and a shot from Erie’s J.P. Labardo in the second were able to sneak by the overage goaltender. London finished with 54 shots.
Erie finished last season at the bottom of the league, but with the help from 15-year-old McDavid the team is looking to head up from the basement.
The Knights won their home opener last year in similar fashion with an 8-0 win over the Saginaw Spirit. Let’s hope history continues to repeat itself.
“We want to start off strong because it’s a long season, but at the same time you want to win games early,” Griffith said. “It’s nice to get the first one under our belts.”
London will travel to Guelph on Sunday (Sept. 23) to play the Storm, before coming back home Friday (Sept. 28) to take on the Kitchener Rangers.