A couple of Michigan connections helped the London Knights to complete a magnificent month of November with a 4-1 win in Flint on Saturday.
Plymouth, Mich., native Antonio Stranges scored twice and Jonathan Gruden of Rochester Hills, Mich., added another as London polished off a 10-1 November record.
“We came out with another good start,” admitted Stranges. “And even though we didn’t score right away, we stuck with our game plan and it paid off.”
Thanks to Brett Brochu in the Knight net and Luke Cavallin in goal for the Firebirds, no one was able to score for a long time.
The pair combined for 35 saves in the first period alone and it wasn’t until London found themselves with a 3-on-1 with just over five minutes to go in the second period that they were able to find the back of the net. Alec Regula slid a pass to Josh Nelson and his shot managed to creep across the goal line. Liam Foudy poked it to the back of the net for good measure and got credit for scoring until the officials working the game reviewed the play in the second intermission and gave the goal to Nelson.
Things tightened up in the third period on the ice and in the stands. Saturday was Teddy Bear Toss night at the Dort Federal Event Centre and the Firebirds were kept off the scoreboard past the promotional timeout which prompted a call from the in-house announcer to throw the bears on the ice meaning there was no Teddy Bear goal scorer.”
“I knew about [the Teddy Bear Toss] but I tried not to think about it,” said Brochu. “The game was great because it became a real competition between the two of us at either end of the ice.”
With the score still sitting at 1-0 Stranges took a breakaway feed from Sahil Panwar, deked to his backhand and scored his tenth goal of the year.
Less than three minutes later Connor McMichael grabbed a puck in the left corner of the Flint end and fed it in front to Gruden and he scored to stretch McMichael’s point streak to 16 games.
Kiriil Steklov snagged a pass in the Firebirds zone set up Stranges in the high slot for his second goal.
From there the countdown was on to the end of the game and it got down to 26.1 seconds remaining when Connor Roberts of Flint banged in a centring pass to end Brochu’s shutout bid.
Brochu made 29 saves in all and was named the game’s second star.
Luke Cavallin faced 47 shot in the Firebirds net.
The win for the Knights combined with a 3-2 loss by the Windsor Spitfires at home to Niagara lifts London into a first-place tie with Guelph in points in the OHL’s Western Conference. The Knights have the edge based on one more win. The teams will meet in Guelph on Dec. 8.