To win in the playoffs, you must dig deep at key moments.
And that’s just what happened Sunday night at Budweiser Gardens in London, as Robert Thomas set up Mitchell Stephens for the game winner at 9:44 of overtime as the London Knights forced Game 7 with a 2-1 victory.
As Thomas carried the puck up the ice in OT, he was at the end of a shift. Having played in Erie the night before and having logged all kinds of hard minutes against the Otters in both games, there is a good chance his legs were burning and he was breathing hard.
Reaching the red line, Thomas had a choice. No one would have blamed him if he had dumped the puck into the Erie end and turned towards the bench for a breather. It would have been the safe play, and no one ever knocks safe plays in overtime.
“I wasn’t passing that chance up,” Thomas said after the game. “[Brandon] Crawley had made a nice pass and I wanted to take advantage of the speed I had to hopefully catch their [defencemen] flat-footed.”
Thomas rushed the puck across the blue line and made a quick move on veteran Darren Raddysh that opened up a passing lane to Mitchell Stephens, who was also late into a shift. Thomas heard Stephens calling for the puck, and that changed his strategy in a split-second.
“I was actually looking to shoot until the D-man slid over, and I was able to slide [the puck] by him,” Thomas said.
Stephens had just one thing on his mind as he headed to the net: “I’m thinking, please get the puck over the defenceman’s stick.”
And Thomas did.
“He made an unbelievable pass,” Stephens said. “It hit my stick and sort of jumped away from me, and I kind of sand-wedged it into the net.”
Stephens must be pretty handy on the golf course with that sand wedge, because the puck rocketed up and under the crossbar, getting the Knights out of a 3-2 series trap and onto the stage of a final and deciding game on Tuesday in Erie.
From the start, the game was about survival for the Knights. They were playing for their playoff lives for the fourth time in 2017, having come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Windsor Spitfires, the Memorial Cup hosts…
Read the full story at http://globalnews.ca/news/3382795/overtime-win-gets-knights-to-another-game-7/