A next-player-up mentality can be very useful in sports.
The London Knights demonstrated just how useful with a 3-1 victory over the Oshawa Generals on Sunday evening at Budweiser Gardens.
London entered the game missing 30-goal scorer Jonathan Gruden, who was cut by a skate on Friday night against the Sarnia Sting, and Alec Regula, who was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered on Saturday night against the Owen Sound Attack. They lost Markus Phillips to a game misconduct in the second period and played 10 minutes of game time without Ryan Merkley and found a way to win for the seventh game in a row.
Compounding the challenge for the Knights was the fact that they were playing for the third time in three days and had come back from a road trip in Owen Sound on Saturday to a time change that cost them an hour early Sunday morning.
Liam Foudy set up Connor McMichael for the game winner with just 2:10 remaining in regulation. Foudy stretched his point streak to 18 games in the first period as he took a feed from Kirill Steklov in the slot and ripped a shot past former teammate Jordan Kooy in the Generals net for his 28th goal of the season and first goal of the game.
Oshawa tied the game on a second-period power play as Brett Neumann converted a bang-bang feed from Allan McShane who was stationed in behind the London net. That tied things 1-1.
That’s when the London bench shrunk just a little bit more. Phillips had logged lots of ice in the first period in the absence of Regula but the Knights lost Phillips after he was called for a slew-footing major penalty at the 9:31 mark of period two. Phillips received a game misconduct and will serve a two-game suspension as well. Then just 12 seconds after a long video review confirmed the Phillips infraction, London’s Ryan Merkley was given a 10-minute misconduct. That left the Knights without their three most veteran defenceman but they killed off the major penalty and went into the third period tied 1-1.
Matvey Guskov finished the scoring with a breakaway empty-netter at 18:28 of the third period.
Brett Brochu earned his 32nd victory of the season. He now has more wins than any other first-year 17-year-old goalie in OHL history. Brochu had been tied with Andrew Loverock and John Vanbiesbrouck, but with 24 saves against the Generals, he now sits all by himself in the record books.
London sits all by themselves atop the Western Conference standings heading into the final two weeks of the regular season. The Kitchener Rangers and Saginaw Spirit also won games on Sunday. The Knights lead the Spirit by five points and they lead the Rangers by seven. All three clubs have six games remaining.
Next for the Knights is a game against the Flint Firebirds at Budweiser Gardens on Friday, March 13, at 7:30.