The London Knights battled back to pull off a 3-2 win over the Saginaw Spirit at Budweiser Gardens on Sunday (Feb. 24) to make it four consecutive victories for the boys in Hunter green.
The win might be a good omen for the London faithful. If the Knights were to start the playoffs tomorrow they would be paired up against Saginaw.
The first-round matchup is far from being a lock with a battle going on for the sixth, seventh and eighth spots between the Western Conference’s S-trio (Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds, Sarnia Sting and the Spirit).
Currently, Sault Ste Marie and Sarnia are tied with 69 points and sit five ahead of Saginaw.
To say which team London will want to meet in the opening round of the playoffs isn’t an easy question as both the Sting and Saginaw have a single win and a pair of losses against the Knights this year, while the Sting have split their season series against the Western Conference’s best team after four games.
All three clubs will meet London one more time before the regular season wraps up.
The Knight’s win over the Spirit on Saturday is game London fans might be used to with a familiar storyline continuing over the past few games.
London rookie Alex Broadhurst picked up the final goal to lift the Knights to a 3-2 win, which might not be a surprise as the 19 year old leads his team in game winners with seven. Broadhurst also picked up the overtime winner in Friday’s (Feb. 22) 4-3 win against the Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds at home.
“I saw an opening and Platzer gave me a nice pass and I had a lot of room,” Broadhurst said Sunday. “I kind of saw a high glove, so I just kind of had my head down and tried shooting there and sure enough it went in.”
Over the course of the 10 games London has played in February, seven of those matchups were decided by a single goal differential, but just three of those are victories for the Knights and one of them coming from a 1-0 shootout win to start the month.
The first period finished with both teams scoreless despite the Knights outshooting the Spirit 19-4.
London has outshot their opponents in seven of their last nine games choosing to smother the other team’s goalie and catching rebounds rather than always picking their spots.
“You can’t let that frustrate you and that’s what good teams do,” said Knights forward Max Domi about the mass quantity of shots in the first period, but lack of scoreboard results. “If it does than the frustration is going to beat you up on the scoreboard and then we start paying for it.”
Saginaw opened the scoring with a power play goal from Garrett Ross in the second period and as of late the penalty kill hasn’t been what was all season for the Knights.
London’s opponents have managed to score on the man advantage in seven of the team’s last eight matchups.
It doesn’t help the Knights have had trouble staying out of the sin bin. Over the eight-game stretch London has been given less penalties than their opponents in just one game.
““We’re complaining, giving them a lot of crap and I think they’re not being very lenient with us because we’re harping on them all the time and the refs are getting in our too much,” Broadhurst said. “I think we just got to relax and play the game the way it should be played.”
After an Olli Maatta goal tying the game in the second frame, Saginaw veteran Eric Locke gave his team the lead again within five minutes of starting the third period.
The Knights were not going to be outdone on the special teams, though.
While London has a season average of 25.3 percent on the power play they’ve boosted up their man advantage to 34.38 in the last eight games.
The Knights added another tally to the stat after Domi found the back of the net midway through the final period to tie the game 2-2 and boost the man advantage to 11 goals on 32 tries over the stretch.
“You got to outnumber them on the power play and that’s what we’ve been doing,” Domi said, leading his team with 28 points on the man advantage. “We’ve just been practicing a lot and making sure that we get shots on net and keep possession of the puck and having three guys on the puck at all times is huge.”
London hits the road Thursday (Feb. 28) to play the Windsor Spitfires before coming back home and playing their final home games of the regular season on Friday (March 1) against Sarnia and Sunday (March 3) against division rival Kitchener Rangers.