Four third-period goals by the Guelph Storm pushed them past the London Knights 5-1 in Guelph on Wednesday night.
The first two periods featured a how-to in penalty killing, as both clubs were saddled with 5-on-3 disadvantages and other opposition power plays to kill off and both teams did so successfully.
With the Knights ahead 1-0 late in the second period, Nate Schnarr got to the London crease and found a way to get the puck over the goal line and that seemed to shift the game for the Storm.
“That changed the tide,” said London assistant coach Dylan Hunter. “We had been all over them in the second. (the Knights outshot Guelph 10-0 through the first 13 minutes of the period.) “We just couldn’t get one in, and then with them scoring at the end [of the period] it changed the whole flow of the game.”
Guelph broke through in the third period, getting three power play goals and the game winner at even strength off the stick of Dmitri Samorukov.
Despite the lopsided score, Dylan Hunter points to show that the effort is there.
“On the stats sheet, analytically we’re doing fine. We have to get back to having faith and the confidence in ourselves that we can put the puck in the net.”
The matchup was reminiscent of one played in London on January 8, in which Guelph got their offence rolling in the final 20 minutes. That night they came back from a 3-2 deficit and that is still the only game that the Knights have lost this year in regulation time when leading through two periods of play. London’s record sits at 34-1-1 when ahead after 40 minutes.
Alex Formenton scored the Knights goal. Schnarr led the way offensively for Guelph with two goals in the game.
The Knights still sit two points ahead of the Saginaw Spirit for first place in the Western Conference.
The Spirit have a game in hand and will play it against Sault Ste. Marie on Thursday.
London will be in the Sault to meet the Greyhounds on Friday.
There may have been more scoring chances than total shots on goal in the opening period thanks to some big saves, blocked shots and missed nets. The only goal of the period may have come from one of the most harmless plays. A puck sailed wide, hit off the end boards in the Storm zone and then dropped down and rolled into the crease. Alex Formenton of the Knights spent a great deal of time showing off the speed of his legs in the opening 20 minutes, but at that moment, the Ottawa Senators prospect demonstrated the speed of his hands as he got to the puck before Guelph goalie Nico Daws did and put it through Daws to open the scoring.
Through more than 13 minutes of the second period, the Knights were outshooting the Storm 10-0. Not long after Guelph got their first shot, they got their first goal. Nate Schnarr took the puck into the London crease, got through a sliding Nathan Dunkley and lifted a shot over Knights goalie Jordan Kooy to tie the game 1-1 through 40 minutes.
The Storm did all of the scoring in the third period. They got the game winner just 1:45 into it on a slap shot by Dmitri Samorukov from the right point. Guelph finished the scoring with three straight power play goals from Nate Schnarr, Liam Hawel and Domenic Commisso.
OHL post-season starts to take shape
A Kitchener Rangers win in Erie on Wednesday set up the first official matchup of the 2019 OHL playoffs: the Rangers will face the Guelph Storm. Guelph went into the night knowing they would be the number four seed. Riley Damiani’s hat trick against the Otters solidified the number five seed for Kitchener. They are the closest teams by proximity in the entire Ontario Hockey League.
The Barrie Colts were officially eliminated after losing 5-1 in Owen Sound. Barrie’s loss means that the North Bay Battalion have clinched the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. There are two spots up for grabs in the Western Conference. Erie, Sarnia and Windsor are the three teams in the running.
Knights alumni at the University Cup
The University hockey championship takes place March 14-17 in Lethbridge, Alta. and there are seven former members of the London Knights taking part in the eight team tournament.
The Queen’s Gaels are coached by Brett Gibson and Kevin Baillie. Gibson was with the Knights for the 1999-00 season as has been the head coach of the Gaels’ program since . Baillie spent part of a season as a goaltender in London and joined the Queen’s staff as an assistant coach following an incredible U Sports playing career. A pair of ex-Knights, forward Ryan Valentini and defenseman Matthew Timms, joined the Guelph Gryphons partway through the 2018-19 OUA season and will look to avenge the Gryphons’ loss to the Gaels in the Queen’s Cup provincial championship.
Memorial Cup winner Brendan Burke is a member of the number one-ranked Alberta Golden Bears. Shane Collins, who was with the Knights in 2017-18, is now a rookie with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Out east, Santino Centorame, who began his career in London and ended it in Owen Sound is a member of St. F.X.
Kevin Hancock of the London Knights has a whole lot of company in the OHL’s 100-point class. Nine players have reached 100 points this season with a potential for two more depending on how the final few days of the season go for Ben Jones and Akil Thomas of the Niagara Ice Dogs. Three of the nine, Tye Felhaber, Justin Brazeau and Arthur Kaliev, are right there with Hancock, having scored 50 goals this season as well. The last time the OHL had nine players with 100 points or more was 2006-07 when Patrick Kane led the league in scoring.
The Knights will end the 2018-19 regular season with back-to-back games in Sault Ste. Marie and Saginaw. London will face the Greyhounds on Friday, March 15, and will be looking for their first win against Sault Ste. Marie since the 2015-16 season. In a strange scheduling quirk, The Knights, the ‘Hounds and the Spirit sit 1-2-3 in the Western Conference standings and will their final games against each other. Since London has clinched first place in the Midwest Division, they cannot be lower than the second seed in the West once the playoffs begin.
The Knights will take on the Spirit on Saturday, March 16 at 7:05.