By: Karina Leung
The 2021-2022 London Knights started off the new season with a trio of wins over the Owen Sound Attack and the Windsor Spitfires.
On Friday night, the Knights happily welcomed fans back into the Budweiser Gardens at 50% capacity for a thriller of a game against Owen Sound. Having not played a regular season game in over a year at the House of Green, the team and fans were clearly pumped to return to a semblance of normalcy.
Goaltender Brett Brochu started in net for the Knights, and despite being forced to pause for a year due to the pandemic after setting the record for the winningest London Knights rookie goalie during his 2019-2020 campaign, the stellar talent in net was a steady presence at the back end for the Knights. Owen Sound made a push early in the game, taking the upper hand in shots and scoring the opening goal, but London didn’t let that deter their intensity.
In the second period, rookie forward Landon Sim recorded his first ever OHL goal, and the opening goal of the Knights’ season, by taking an excellent pass across the crease from fellow rookie Ben Bujold to slide the puck through the five-hole of Owen Sound’s goalie. Defender Isaiah George also assisted on the play, creating a trio of rookie Knights who tallied their first points of their OHL career on the play. However, the Attack would take the lead again midway through the frame on a power play.
In the third period, Knights defender Gerard Keane evened up the score on the power play with a slap shot from the blue line, bringing back the energy for the team and the crowd, and this momentum propelled them through the rest of the period, as well as overtime, as they dominated on offence for the rest of the game. The score, however, was ultimately decided in the shootout, with Brochu putting up a wall against all three Owen Sound players, and Sean McGurn scoring the winning goal for London.
In a rematch on Saturday night in Owen Sound, the Attack scored just 28 seconds into the game, showing their eagerness to even up the weekend against the Knights. However, London would take their offensive momentum from the night before into this game, as they took the upper hand in shots overall with 43 against the Attack’s 32. Just three minutes later, newly appointed Knights captain Luke Evangelista would get his first goal of the season by picking up a rebound from rookie defenceman Jackson Edward. To round off the first frame, left winger Stuart Rolofs would also pick up his first goal of the season as he received a rebounding puck from McGurn’s shot, and then his own, to bring the score to 2-1.
The second frame saw Owen Sound score a pair of goals, but not without the Knights battling to make sure they got one of their own. Evangelista would score his second of the game on the power play with a wrist shot from the top of the circle, while Edward and Colton Smith were awarded with the assists.
In the third, with a score of 3-3, it was Knights rookie and the first overall pick from the 2021 OHL U18 Priority Selection Abakar Kazbekov who notched the game-winning goal five minutes into the frame. On a one-timer from London defender Connor Federkow, a rocket from Kazbekov would seal the deal for the Knights, who hunkered down on defence for the rest of the game to ensure the win.
In a Thanksgiving matchup on Monday afternoon in Windsor, the Knights once again found success, this time against the Western Division’s Spitfires.
The Knights offence was roaring right out of the gate, as they scored two goals in the first period to put them up 2-0. On the power play, Rolofs sniped one past the Windsor tender on a goal assisted by Sim and Edward. Evangelista would add onto his two goals already scored during the weekend by putting one in on a pass from forward Cody Morgan.
The Spitfires responded accordingly, however, as they notched the next three goals of the game in the second and third periods, certainly putting pressure on the Knights to perform. With five minutes left to go in the game, it was Evangelista again who would find the back of the net. Capitalizing on a turnover by a Spitfires defender, Evangelista passed the puck to Morgan, who would send it back to Evangelista to bury it behind the goalie. Having tied things up, the London continued to put pressure on Windsor, but even overtime wasn’t enough to call the game.
In the shootout, both Windsor and London tallied a goal each, with London getting theirs from Evangelista, resulting in a need for eight rounds in total before Smith sealed the deal for the Knights.
The London Knights picked up a total of six points this past weekend, putting them at the top of the Midwest Division. They’ll be looking to add onto their success this Friday, October 15, at home at Budweiser Gardens when they faceoff again against the Spitfires. As capacity has just risen to 100% for attendance, please stay tuned to hear about single game tickets.