Connor McMichael’s sixth hat trick of the season propelled the London Knights to a 7-4 win over the Windsor Spitfires on home ice Friday night.
The victory kept London perfect at Budweiser Gardens in 2020.
McMichael had three goals and an assist to take him to within two goals of Ottawa’s Jack Quinn. McMichael has 37 in 36 games this year for the Knights and 80 points overall.
His linemate Luke Evangelista hit two nice round numbers as well, as he reached 20 goals and 50 points thanks to a goal and three assists against the Spitfires.
Ryan Merkley had a three-assist night for London. Liam Foudy added a goal and an assist and was a plus-5.
In the four games played between the teams before Friday the word “close” had rarely come into focus. Three of those games had ended in identical 6-3 scores and the other wound up 4-2.
On Friday night, the Knights and Spitfires actually went to the third period locked up 3-3, but four goals in the final frame brought about that familiar three-goal bulge in the end.
The Knights have now won seven games in a row and 12 of their past 13. London held their position a point behind the Kitchener Rangers for first place in the Western Conference with a game in hand.
With the Knights trailing 2-0 early in the second period, Markus Phillips ripped a shot off the goalpost and past Windsor goalie Xavier Medina for his second goal in as many games.
A reaching deflection by Liam Foudy in the slot put a puck through the legs of Medina to tie the game two and a half minutes past the halfway mark and then McMichael gave London their first lead before the end of the period.
With the Knights on a power play, the Spitfires nearly had a steal at their own blue line that would have resulted in a three-zone breakaway, but a deft poke check by Ryan Merkley kept the puck in the Windsor zone and then Merkley made a play to McMichael for his first of the game and London’s first lead.
Windsor tied it on Egor Afanasyev’s second of the night which set up the fireworks of the third period.
McMichael’s second made it 4-3 at 1:41 and then a nifty feed from Antonio Stranges to Nathan Dunkley made it 5-3.
The Spitfires tightened the gap 44 seconds after Dunkley’s goal, when Tyler Angle scored but Evangelista’s 20th and an empty-netter by McMichael to complete the hat trick finished the scoring and sealed the win.
Windsor outshot the Knights 41-36 as Brett Brochu made 41 stops for his 11th win in a row and 21st in his rookie season. Michael Houser won 17 games as a 17-year old rookie in 2009-10.
London dominated in the faceoff circle again by winning 43 of 67 draws.
The Knights will head to Sarnia on Saturday afternoon for a 4 p.m. game against the Sting.