For the third consecutive game the London Knights found themselves fighting back from a four-goal deficit and for a third straight game London came up short.
The Knights got as close as a goal post and a penalty shot from pulling off the feat, but two empty-net goals by the Battalion sealed a 7-4 victory over London on Thursday at the North Bay Memorial Gardens.
With London down just a goal in the third period, Jonathan Gruden wrung a rocket of a wrist shot off the left post and then Cole Tymkin was stopped on a penalty shot after he sped into the Battalion zone and was slashed trying to the net.
“We had our looks there in the third,” admitted Knights acting head coach Dylan Hunter. “We just couldn’t capitalize on some good chances. We hit [the post] and had some unlucky puck luck.”
London had talked about getting off to a better start after giving up three goals in the first five minutes in Windsor on Sunday afternoon in a game that the Spitfires eventually led 4-0. London also found themselves behind by a 4-0 margin against Sarnia on Friday, Dec. 13 at Budweiser Gardens.
Hunter said the deficit on Thursday was due in part to North Bay connecting early on the power play.
“We got down two goals on the penalty kill. We are using some guys on the back end who haven’t played it [in game situations.] You have to keep those scoring chances outside the dots and we have to stay out of the box. It was preventable penalties that we had.”
Three second period goals by the Battalion pushed their lead to 5-1 with 7:01 remaining, but a quick strike by Nathan Dunkley 24 seconds after that fifth goal pulled the Knights to within three.
London came out with a very impressive start in the third period with goals that came 36 seconds apart from Avery Winslow and Nathan Dunkley. Winslow’s was his first in the Ontario Hockey League and it came off a hard wrist shot from the left side. Dunkley dug the puck out of a pile in front of the Battalion net and buried his second of the game.
That had the Knights trailing by a goal until the final minute-and-17-seconds, but like their game against the Sting, they were unable to find the back of the net to tie things up.
Jonathan Gruden scored the first Knights goal on Thursday just 1:45 after the opening face-off as a Josh Nelson shot hit Gruden as he went to the net and deflected past North Bay goalie Joe Vrbetic.
Just two-and-a-half minutes later the Battalion tied the game and brought down the Teddy Bears as Brandon Coe missed on a deflection at the side of the London net on a power play but was able to grab the puck in behind the net and bank it in to make it 1-1.
Another power play goal by Brad Chenier made it 2-1 before the end of the first 20 minutes and seemed to give the Battalion a lift.
“We have made a habit of coming to play in the second and third [periods],” cautioned Hunter. “We have to start in the first period. I know they want to and they are saying all the right things and we just have to make it happen on the ice.”
London outshot North Bay 34-26. Dylan Myskiw started the game in goal for the Knights and was replaced by Brett Brochu after the fifth North Bay goal.
London will play their final game before the holiday break on Friday and will look to snap their four-game losing skid heading into a week-long rest.