Two goals from Ryan Merkley helped the London Knights celebrate the return of six World Junior gold medallists with a 5-2 victory over the Barrie Colts on Friday night.
The Knights honoured general manager Mark Hunter, head coach Dale Hunter, equipment manager Chris Maton, head of security Bob Martin and players Liam Foudy and Connor McMichael before the game for their roles in Team Canada’s gold medal victory in the Czech Republic.
London also welcomed two new teammates as former Colt Jason Willms and former Guelph Storm and Owen Sound Attack defenceman Markus Phillips made their Knights debuts.
Phillips recorded an assist for his first point in a London uniform and Willms tied for the game lead with five shots on goal against his former club.
The Knights outshot Barrie 52-16 and won for the fifth time in a row as they kicked off three games in two-and-a-half days.
Merkley opened the scoring for London in the first period as he wristed a shot past Arturs Silovs of the Colts on the power play.
Barrie got that back on a deflection by Luke Bignell at 8:46 of the second period and the teams sat tied 1-1.
That score lasted just over a minute as Matvey Guskov of the Knights carried the puck across the Barrie blue line and snapped a puck by Silovs at the 10:29 mark.
The Colts evened the game a second time on their first power play opportunity as Brett Brochu stopped a chance at one side of the London net only to have the play circle around to the other side where Aidan Brown jammed it in to leave the teams locked at a pair of goals apiece through 40 minutes.
The Knights came out charging in the third period. They outshot Barrie 16-4 and got goals 1:21 apart from Alec Regula on a power play and from Merkley at even strength to take a 4-2 lead.
Liam Foudy capped off the scoring into an empty net with 3:19 to go in the game.
Guskov ended the game with a goal and an assist for London.
The victory moved the Knights to within two points of Windsor for first place in the Western Conference and to within a point of Kitchener for top spot in the Midwest division. London, Guelph and the Rangers are separated by two points in spots one, two and three in the Midwest.