Billy Moskal of the London Knights scored 45 seconds into overtime to give London a 4-3 victory over the Sting on Sunday in Sarnia.
Four years of Ontario Hockey League experience gave the Sudbury native an extra edge as he carried the puck along the right side of the Sting end. Moskal and his two linemates were nearing the end of the first shift in OT — he could have stopped along the boards, he could have chipped it behind the Sarnia net, but his age helped him to sense an opportunity.
“I was going to take it back out (to centre ice) to reset but I noticed two of their players looking toward their bench and I thought they might be thinking about a change,” explained Moskal.
Moskal cut across the crease and outwaited sprawling Sting goalie Ethan Langevin before snapping a shot into the empty top half of the Sarnia net. The goal was Moskal’s second in two games.
The finish was made even more dramatic by the fact that the Sting managed to tie the game with 11.1 seconds remaining in regulation on a goal by Ryan McGregor.
But Moskal pointed to what got London within seconds of a regulation win as being the biggest difference in London leaving Sarnia with two points. “The biggest focus for us has been finding a way to play a complete game and I think we really did that tonight.”
That sentiment was echoed by Knights associate general manager Rob Simpson.
“In this entire stretch, without the guys [who are] away at World Juniors, that was probably one of our most consistent games from start to finish,” said Simpson.
The Sting got the only goal of the opening period on an individual rush by Jacob Perreault. He got a shot away and was able to backhand home his own rebound.
The Knights tied the game early in the second period on a breakaway goal by Antonio Stranges that came on a London power play. Stranges seemed to catch the Sting defence flat-footed coming in across the blue line and he zipped between two defenders and ripped a shot over the shoulder of Langevin to make it 1-1.
“[Ryan] Merkley made a great play to get it to me in the middle,” pointed out Stranges. “Luckily their defence were a little out of position and I was able to take advantage of it.”
Sarnia got the lead back on a power play of their own as Brayden Guy tapped in a pass from Ty Voit at the side of the Knight net but Sahil Panwar and Jonathan Gruden combined on a give-and-go just over four minutes later to tie the game 2-2 at the end of 40 minutes.
Luke Evangelista was rewarded for a strong game as he took a feed from Avery Winslow in the slot and wristed a shot past Langevin to give London a 3-2 lead at 10:25 of the third period.
The score stayed that way until the final few seconds when McGregor scored to even things 3-3. The goal was reviewed for possible goaltender interference with Guy in front but the goal stood and that led to Moskal’s heroics in overtime.
Gruden ended the game with two assists and now has five points in his past four games.
London’s power play went 1-for-1. The Sting were 1-for-3.
Sarnia outshot the Knights 30-27.
The teams will complete their eighteenth consecutive New Year’s home-and-home on Tuesday at Budweiser Gardens.
The Knights are now 25-6-2-1 in the annual tradition between the teams that began on New Year’s Eve 2002.