Richard Whittaker scored three times, added an assist as the London Knights doubled up Owen Sound 6-3 on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.
The victory was London’s fifth in just eight days and moved them four points clear of Owen Sound for fourth place in the Western Conference with four games remaining on their schedule (the Attack have five left.)
The game was also another example of what has been making the Knights so difficult to deal with on their latest winning streak. Different players keep stepping up.
“That says a lot about us,” said captain Evan Bouchard. “Our opponents have to be worried about all four lines, not just our top two.”
Teams also need to be worried about production from London’s blue line as well. Bouchard added his 83rd point of the season on Friday. He sits in ninth in league scoring and could become the first Ontario Hockey League defenceman since Ryan Ellis to finish in the top-10 in scoring. Bouchard was just turning 12 years old.
“Anytime you are getting production from different lines, it’s hard for the other team to know what to do,” pointed out Knights assistant coach Rick Steadman. “They try to make their matchups against our top guys and if our second, third and fourth lines can step up and get goals, it’s a good way to win games.”
Whittaker was a prime example. He sat out 19 minutes after a fight with Kurtis Henry of the Otters, but was given an opportunity to finish his hat trick and made good.
“He showed a lot of character and a lot of will. To go out and beat a guy who was bigger than he was and get a nice goal at the end, our whole bench jumped. We were so happy for him.”
Sergey Popov also had a big game offensively for London with a goal and an assist. Joseph Raaymakers made 26 saves in the London net.
The Knights hope to keep the smiles and the streak going as they head to Flint on Saturday night.
How the goals were scored
Sergey Popov started off his night by zooming down into the Erie Otters zone where he zipped around to the right side and sent a pass to the left of the Erie net to Richard Whittaker and the Holland Landing, Ont. native fired high to put London ahead 1-0 at the 10:34 mark.
The Knights began the second period on a 4-on-3 penalty kill and killed off both penalties that had been assessed at the end of the first period. Cole Tymkin and Alex Formenton left the penalty box simultaneously and were about a stride and a half from rejoining the play when Kyle Maksimovich took a shot from the slot and scored to tie the game 1-1.
Just 15 seconds later, London rebounded to retake the lead on Whittaker’s second goal of the game. He carried across the Erie blue line and took a shot that hit a stick and deflected past Erie goalie Anand Oberoi and in to put the Knights back in front 2-1.
The Otters tied the game again on a goal by former Sarnia Sting forward Troy Lajeunesse at 5:10 of the second, but the Knights responded quickly again.
Sergey Popov rolled away from a check in the Erie end, cut to the net and snapped a shot high over Oberoi to make it 3-2.
Then with the Knights killing a penalty late in the period, Alex Formenton and Billy Moskal went streaking down the ice on a short-handed two-on-one and Formenton scored his 25th of the year to extend London’s lead to 4-2 through 40 minutes.
Gera Poddubnyi cut the Knights’ lead to a goal 6:11 into the third period and the game stayed that way until Nathan Dunkley was taken down on a breakaway with 2:33 remaining.
Dunkley slowed down across the blue line, got to within the hash marks and ripped a shot inside the right post to restore London’s two-goal advantage.
Richard Whittaker finished the scoring with an empty-netter for his third goal of the game with just under nine seconds remaining.
The Knights will return home to take on the Sarnia Sting on Friday, March 16 at 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Aluminum Associates London Knights Armoury, at the OMAC Mortgages London Knights Box Office, over the phone by calling 519-681-0800 EXT. 1, or by CLICKING HERE.