Knights Forward Max Jones
Knights Forward Robert Thomas
Knights Assistant Coach Rick Steadman
After letting a 1-0 lead slip away after 20 minutes of play Tuesday night, the Knights would end the evening down 2-1 in the best of 7 series against the Erie Otters as a result of a 3-1 Game #3 loss on home ice. The biggest concern heading into Thursday night’s Game #4 at Budweiser Gardens for London was their lack of offensive production. A measly two goals over the last two games, a total of four in the nine periods of hockey played so far in Semi-Finals. Adjustments would have to be made for the defending Memorial Cup Champions in order to not concede a firm grip of the series to Erie.
On the eve of the long weekend, the ruckus crowd rumbled the rink and looked to fuel the home team to victory. However it would be the Otters striking first 8:12 into the game when Alex DeBrincat would spring the 2014 3rd round Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Warren Foegele into the Knight’s zone. The Markham, Ontario native would use some soft hands to manage to squeak the puck through Tyler Parsons five-hole on the backhand. Later, in the final minutes of the period on the powerplay, a Memorial Cup Champion would add to the Erie lead, as former Oshawa General Anthony Cirelli would punch it home with 1:46 left before intermission. The visiting team’s great 2-0 start not only quieted the London faithful, but continued to silence the Knights offensively.
The second stanza was a stalemate with London showing more of a concentrated effort to get on the scoreboard. Despite outshooting the Otters 12-8 and having the only powerplay opportunity of the period, the Knights would find themselves down by the same score at the end of the frame as it was in the beginning. Compounding matters for the home side, Pickering, Ontario goaltender Troy Timpano had now kept them off the scoreboard for four consecutive periods, conceded only two goals to London since the start of the 3rd period in Game #1.
Trailing 2-0 to start the last period of play, the Knights were far from out of it, but time was of the essence. Not fazed by the pressure of the situation, the 1st round pick of the 2016 draft for the Anaheim Ducks Max Jones bulldozed his way to the Otter cage, sliding the puck through Timpano to give London their first goal of the evening 5:51 into the 3rd. The unassisted, ‘vintage Max Jones’ goal electrified the crowd, giving the Knights new life in a 2-1 contest. Just under five minutes later, the ‘Super 7’s’ would strike, with the forward from Finland Janne Kuokkanen grabbing the game tying goal with assists from Mitchell Stephens and Robert Thomas. With the crowd noise deafening, Kuokkanen would need just 31 seconds to pull off his best Drake impersonation, going back to back, giving the Knights a 3-2 lead with 8:59 left on the clock. After playing 45 minutes of solid hockey, the Otters appeared dejected and deflated for the remainder of the night. Max Jones would end up putting the nail in the coffin with his second goal of the game, with an empty net marker from the red line with only 28 seconds left to make it 4-2 London. After only having four goals in the series heading into the 3rd period, the Knights matched that production in 20 minutes for the comeback victory.
Just like that a best of seven series is boiled down to a best of three. Both teams get a chance to rest up before a mammoth Game #5 at Erie Insurance Arena Saturday night with a 7pm puck drop. The win also guarantees another game at Budweiser Gardens, with Game #6 set for Sunday evening at 6pm. With the winner of this series advancing to fight either the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds or Owen Sound Attack (series also tied 2-2) for the Wayne Gretzky Trophy.