A 6-3 victory on Thursday night in Windsor gave the London Knights their ninth victory in 10 games and head coach Dale Hunter his 800th career victory in the Ontario Hockey League.
Hunter is the fastest coach to reach 800 wins and trails only Brian Kilrea (1193 victories) and the late Bert Templeton (907) on the all-time OHL wins list.
If you were watching as the final horn sounded, you would have had a hard time finding a hint that Hunter had reached another milestone. It was business as usual departing the bench.
“He doesn’t really get caught up [in numbers] like that,” said Knights assistant coach Dylan Hunter.
“I bet he wouldn’t even know if somebody didn’t bring it up. Day in and day out he just loves it. He watches games and he enjoys taking about [hockey].
“It’s not about the win column or where they place. For a lot of guys it’s just natural to want to be at the top; for him, it’s trying to find new things in the game.”
Dale Hunter got a salute from his players on the way home and took some time to reflect on the accomplishment.
“You feel a little old to begin with,” he said, smiling.
“A lot of good players have come through and I’m watching some of them like Rick Nash retire from the National Hockey League. When you get to a number [like this], you know you have had some good teams and good players.”
There seemed to be a little extra from his current players as they locked down a hard charging Windsor Spitfires team for much of the final period to preserve the win for their coach.
Even though the Knights scored six times, Dale Hunter pointed to what they did away from the Windsor net as being the difference.
“We played a sound defensive game,” he pointed out. “Everybody chipped in and we had solid goaltending and that helps out a lot.”
Brett Brochu made 33 saves in net and Luke Evangelista and Nathan Dunkley each scored a goal and added two assists.
The teams piled up 36 shots apiece and they reached a 6-3 outcome for the third time in four games against one another this season. The other game ended 4-2 and each team now has two victories in the season series with two games remaining in it.
London comes home on short rest to face Hamilton on Friday at 7:30 at Budweiser Gardens.
“[Arthur] Kaliyev has been on a tear and we’re going to have to pay close attention to him,” stated Dale Hunter.
“They are going to come in and work hard and we can expect to have to play a fast game.”
The ink on 800 wins going into the OHL books won’t be dry, but Dale Hunter is already planning for what needs to be done to win 801.
How the goals were scored
Hunter Skinner opened the scoring on an absolute blast from the right point that went high on Windsor goalie Kari Piiroinen.
Big six-foot-nine-inch Windsor forward Curtis Douglas was robbed on a deke by Knights goalie Brett Brochu early in the first period, but found some room inside the post on a wrist shot to tie the game at 13:37.
The game looked as though it was heading into the first intermission all tied up until Tonio Stranges corralled a rebound in the Spitfires zone and snapped the puck into the back of the Windsor net with just 3.6 seconds to go on the clock, giving the Knights a 2-1 advantage through 20 minutes.
With London killing a penalty in the second period, Luke Evangelista got to a puck in Spitfire territory and fed a pass across the ice to Jason Willms and he scored his first goal as a Knight and his 19th on the season to make it 3-1.
Second-year Windsor forward Will Cuylle fired a shot from the left side of the London end to close the gap to 3-2, but the Knights responded with goals 21 seconds apart late in the middle period to take a 5-2 lead to the dressing room as Evangelista dug a puck out of a scrum in front and then Nathan Dunkley moved in alone and scored.
Brochu made 20 saves in the second period for London.
Jonathan Gruden popped a puck past Xavier Medina in the third period to stretch the Knights lead to 6-2. Medina took over in the Windsor net to begin period three.
Daniel D’Amico deflected a pass into the London goal with 1:59 to go in the game to finish the scoring.