It has become as much a part of February as Valentine’s Day and watching groundhogs look for shadows.
Invariably, at some point during the second month of the year the London Knights officially put their clutches on an Ontario Hockey League playoff spot.
It happened on Thursday night in Windsor, as London doubled the Spitfires 4-2 in the final meeting between the teams in the regular season.
The victory stretched the Knights’ playoff streak to 20 seasons, which ranks as the longest current streak in the OHL. They have reached the post-season in every year that Mark and Dale Hunter have owned the team.
Thursday’s win over the Spitfires was anything but a given. Windsor is big, skilled and can make life miserable for their opponents, but London played patient hockey and took advantage of their opportunities.
“It was definitely a tough game,” admitted Knights co-captain Alec Regula who scored one of the four London goals.
“They play hard every night and it is a pretty big rivalry between us, so it was a good game and a good win.”
The Knights once again got some big stops from Brett Brochu who made 35 saves in all. His biggest may have happened as London protected a 3-2 lead into the final minute of the game.
Windsor forward Tyler Angle took a pass in the slot and fired a shot at the Knight net. Brochu reached out his arm and knocked the puck away and seconds later, Connor McMichael took a pass from Liam Foudy and scored his 41st goal into the empty Spitfire net.
“[Brochu] is making a habit out of making those big saves,” pointed out London assistant coach Dylan Hunter.
“He lets us feel calm on the bench because he’s really confident pushing pucks into the corner on tough rebounds.”
Brochu, who is from Tilbury, Ont., used to watch Windsor games with his dad when he was younger.
He ended up as first star of the show on Thursday in a second straight 4-2 win by the Knights. Brochu was named second star in Ottawa on Monday as London knocked off the 67’s.
Jonathan Gruden scored the game winner against Ottawa and scored the Knights first goal against the Spitfires to tie the game 1-1 in the second period after Cole Purboo had opened the scoring. Gruden credited the fact that the veterans on the team “don’t let the players get too high or too low and that leadership trickles right down to the young players.”
Regula put the Knights ahead 2-1 before the end of the second, but Windsor tied the game 6:39 into the third period as Wyatt Johnston managed to bang a bounce off the end boards behind Brochu.
Liam Foudy extended his point streak to 10 games with his 24th of the season just shy of the midway mark of the third, setting the stage for more stops by Brochu and McMichael’s goal with 12 seconds to go.
London is now on a four-game winning streak and leads the Kitchener Rangers by three points atop the Western Conference standings. The Knights still have a game in hand.
London’s power play was held quiet on their only opportunity. Windsor went 0-for-4 on the man advantage.
The Knights will visit Guelph on Friday.