Entries in London Knights (8)

Friday
Nov292013

London Knights v Niagara IceDogs - November 28th

by Dwayne Williams (@Notsoheavyd)

Knight Knight

The Western Conference’s #4 London Knights came into St. Catharines with a bolstered lineup and an impressive 9 game winning streak   Without putting the necessary grit to their game, they were outperformed by the young Dogs squad on this night by a score of 4-1.

Niagara came out flying in the first and sent the Knights to the first intermission with a scoreless match and a 17-4 shots on goal differential.  Niagara had the lions share of the scoring chances but couldn’t put any past the Knights’ tender Stolarz.

In the second frame, the Icedog’s top line worked the puck around the offensive zone and were able to set up DiFruscia for his 14th goal of the season.  Ming added to the Dogs’ lead with some gritty work for his 11th marker this year.  Shortly after that Zadorov was set up from his defensive partner when he fired a slick rising wrist shot to beat goaltender Brent Moran.  The ‘dagger’ on this night happened as the period was winding down.  Niagara was on the powerplay when newly acquired Billy Jenkins walked out from behind the net and spun around to put the puck on net.  Stolarz made the original save, but the puck squirted into the air and fell behind him to give Niagara a 3-1 lead heading into the final frame.

The third period was chippier – 8 penalties were called – with both squads having good chances on their powerplays, but with nothing to show for their work.  The lone goal of the period happened when the Knights were being pressured on a breakout from their defensive end.  There was a miscue at their blueline that Hayden was able to keep in the zone – pushed along to Verhaege and then onto to Perlini for his fifteenth goal of the campaign.

Assistant Coach Joey Burke said ‘We regard them as the top team in the league – well respected franchise. For our guys to go to toe to toe with this big team with a handful of first round nhl draft picks. … it certainly looks great for our future.‘  The Dogs are on the road for games in Sudbury and then Sault Ste Marie – often a challenging trip in the best of weather.  Burke said that ‘the road trip just got a little bit shorter.‘

Jordan Maletta was in tough against Tierney and Horvat in the faceoff circle tonight.  He held his own (50%) and played very responsible defensively.   He was thrilled with the team effort tonight ‘Last few games we’ve given up leads in the third – so we were really happy to finish this one off. This win give us lots of confidence going in to the road trip. ‘

With the win tonight and Belleville’s loss, the Dogs creep up to the #9 spot in the conference with a slim 2 point margin.

My three stars -

#3 Billy Jenkins – solid offensive play and good on ice vision.

#2 Graham Knott – won 4/5 faceoffs in the pivotal second period

#1 Brent Moran – fabulous bounce back game saving 27/28 shots

Sunday
Dec092012

London Knights v Brampton Battalion - Dec 6th

by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)

The London Knights stroll into the Powerade Centre riding a 15 game winning streak.  The Brampton Battalion look to earn their 9th win on home ice and 15th win on the year.

The game started off with the Battalion playing from behind. Not on the score sheet, but the Knights came out flying and putting a lot of pucks on net. Matej Machovsky had to be on his game early as the Knights opened with a shot per minute pace in the opening half of the first period. The usual London suspects really wanted the first goal and by the end of the first period would fire 14 shots on the Brampton netmider. The Battalion on the other hand looked for their counter attack and put quality shots on London’s Kevin Bailie who stopped all but one in the first. Brampton would get on the board via the power play when Barclay Goodrow would score his 21st of the season and give the troops a 1-0 lead on 5 shots after 20 minutes.

Early in the second period Brendan Childerley would add to the Brampton lead and make it 2-0. The Knights would continue to press to crack the Brampton Shield and half way through the second London would get on the board after Matt Rupert would score his 14th of the season to make it 2-1.  A few minutes later, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Josh Anderson tied the game at 2, scoring his 9th of the season and earning his 23rd point on the year, a career high. The Knights would end the 2nd period tied with the Battalion.

In the third, Seth Griffith would score his 20th of the season to make it three straight London goals and give the Knights the lead. London would continue to win the board battles and score another their 4th unanswered goal as Tyler Ferry would score his 1st of the season  to make it 4-2 for the Knights. The Battalion would get one back late as Marcus Mcivor would score a fluke goal , pinballing off a few players before bouncing over Bailie. That would be as close as Brampton gets as they fall to London, who wins their 15th straight by a score of 4-3.

 

London Knights

Nikita Zadorov

The big 6’5” defenceman is such a fluid skater that he literally can skate himself out of trouble. He has big, powerful strides that are fluent and effortless. He uses his big reach to keep the opposition on the outside and limit the possible scoring chances by forcing them to rethink their own options. Nikita is very good at reading the play, both in the offensive and defensive zone. With the puck, he is patient and looking for the smart play instead of trying to force the offensive play.

Max Domi

Since returning from the U18 Championship back in August, Max has been on a roll. His skating is vastly improved as he gains lower body strength. His wide skating gives him a great centre of balance, which allows him to really protect the puck in open ice and in the corners. His compete level is off the charts as he always wants the puck or to recover the puck. With the puck he has excellent vision and can find an open man or make a play happen as good as anyone in the league. Domi is defensively responsible as he is the first forward back to help the Knights D when the puck is turned over.

Thursday
Apr192012

London Knights vs Kitchener Rangers Series Preview

by Matt Leacy (@matt41_ito)

Here we go again!

My absolute favourite OHL playoff series of all time. The 2005 Kitchener-London Western Conference final. That series went 5 games and London won. Why would this be a Rangers fan favourite? A couple reasons. First and foremost, Michael Richards and Corey Perry fighting at the end of Game 1 at centre ice at the JLC. Probably one of the most entertaining hockey fights i've ever seen. Less than 5 years later those guys would win a gold medal together for Team Canada at the Vancouver Olympic Games. Two unbelievably talented junior players, squaring off and becoming unbelievably talented NHL players later on.

And how about Game 4 in Kitchener, with the Knights leading 3-2, Craig Voakes wires in a slapshot with 6.2 seconds to play in the third period to tie the game and send it to overtime. The Knights would of course win that game in the extra frame, but that moment still remains the loudest I have ever heard the old Aud. Unbelievable. 

Fast forward 5 years to the 2010 Western Conference semi-final, where Kitchener led by #53 Jeff Skinner, would trounce the Knights in 5 games. Another series with bone crushing moments, high energy plays and lots of Drama, such as Akeson's overtime winner in game 4, the constant booing of Nazem Kadri at the Aud, Akey's hip check on Kadri that had him checking out the roof, and pretty much everything else you could want in a playoff series.

Now we head to 2012, where for the 2nd time in 3 years the Rangers and Knights, probably the biggest rivalry in all of junior hockey, will meet in the playoffs tonight, when they kick off the Western Conference final at the JLC. 

Honestly, I didn't see the Rangers making it this far. I may have picked them to beat the Whale in 7 and the Attack in 5, but the pessimist in me had the Whalers easily taking out the Rangers, until i saw game 4 against Plymouth. That game put a thought in my mind that I can't get rid of: This team is damn good. When they have everyone firing at all cylinders, mainly the third and second lines, they could be the best team in the OHL. When you have guys like Radek Faksa, Eric Ming, and Zach Lorentz teaming up and playing to their full potential, they can out play any other third forward line you throw at them. And how about that Tyler Randell guy? Scores 2 goals in the Rangers opener, gets suspended for 10 games (which was insane, but i digress), steps back in to the lineup and scores 4 goals in his second game. Thats an average of a hat trick per game for the Boston Bruins prospect (as a Canucks fan, that has me worried). Of course the Rangers top line of Tobias Rieder, Ben Thompson and Michael Catenacci have been stellar and consistent throughout the playoffs. If the regular season is any indication, they'll torment Michael Houser throughout the series.

In goal is where the real battle will be. One one side, you've got Michael Houser who is 2-4 against Kitchener this season, one of those wins coming in a shootout. At the other end you've got Mr. Blue Kryptonite himself John Gibson, who is 4-0 against London with one shootout. Gibson led the CHL in save percentage, while Houser was named OHL Goaltender of the year. I believe this will come down to a goaltending battle. Can Gibson be a brick wall like he has been all season, or will the Knights finally find a crack in the mortar? Can Houser prove he deserved goalie of the year, or will the Rangers give him a sunburn on his neck from all the red light behind him?

All that being said, I'm looking forward to an extremely entertaining series. I'm 2-0 so far so, I'm going with Kitchener in 6. 

Thursday
Apr192012

Kitchener Rangers vs London Knights Series Preview

by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)

One of the greatest rivalries in the OHL continues in these 2012 playoffs. The London Knights and the Kitchener Rangers battle it out for the Western Conference title. Like the regular season you can expect a fierce and heated best of 7 affair that will border on the status of legendary. Every time these two teams meet in the playoffs it is a must watch series with this season being no exception. Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape.

 

Offensive Weapons

                Even though the London Knights only have 2 players with double digits in points per the 10 playoff games played. They are not short on offensive weapons. Seth Griffith leads the charge for the Knights (5G+7A=12P) as to be expected based on his 45 goal campaign, while surprisingly, Rookie Import defenceman Olli Matta is second in Knights Playoff scoring (1G+10A=11P). Right behind their offensive leaders is who you expected to be contributing to London’s successful playoff run. Austin Watson, Greg McKegg and Vladislav Namestnikov all have a combination of 9 points with Ryan Rupert and Jared Knight with 7 and 6 points respectively.

                On the other side of the ice the Kitchener Rangers seemingly are relying on two players to either start the offence or close out the game, depending on the situation. Kitchener Captain Michael Catenacci and Tobias Rieder have been dominating the opposition during the first two rounds of the playoffs. Rieder has 10 goals and 23 points, while Catenacci has stayed true to form and has been dishing the puck to his teammates to rack up his 23 points (6G+17A=23P) in the post season. Despite these two Rangers being the offensive catalysts, next leading scorer Ryan Murphy has 14 points, Kitchener has relied on different individuals stepping up to pull out the W’s. Tyler Randell the latest ‘hero’ scoring 4 in game 7 versus the Plymouth Whalers.

 

Defensive Measures

              

                The entire year you could point to faults on both teams Blue line whether it is Olli Matta having rookie struggles or Ryan Murphy looking to do everything himself, no defensive 6 has been perfect this year. In the playoffs however the 6 D for the Knights have been almost perfect, a combined +34, in these playoffs. Tinordi and Matta have been a great big duo on the blue line that makes it tough to work inside, the shutdown pair of Harrington and Ferry makes it difficult to even get into the zone, while Cook and Hughes have been able to give the top 4 a well deserved rest while providing great protection for their goaltender. Having 5 of your top 6 D listed at 6 feet or more is a big asset, but all 6 play like they are 6’3”. Kitchener on the other hand has been using a short bench for their D. Coach Spott likes to shorten up his bench to the ‘go to’ guys in order to minimize the opposition capitalizing on mistakes. Ryan Murphy and Cody Sol have been a great top pairing all season for the Rangers as Ryan can wheel through the zone to create space for his forwards, while Sol has picked up his defensive game but also able to be a dominant force on the point. The 2nd pairing of Ben Fanelli and Max Iafrate has been real surprising to most considering the documented time away from the game for Ben, and the almost unknown in what Max could bring to the Rangers lineup. Max is a bigger version of Ryan Murphy, but not as offensively gifted, while Ben has a no fear attitude that benefits him using his size to get into the shooting or passing lanes to block the opposition’s chances.

 

Goalie Shootout

               

                The goaltending battle in any playoff series is always the most scrutinized. The newly crowned OHL Goaltender of the Year Michael Houser versus the man who ‘beat him’ for the backup role for Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championship, John Gibson. Houser has been nothing but a horse this year. Playing in 62 games, tying the OHL record for most wins in a season (giving credibility back to that record) and placing in the top 5 for Goals Against and Save Percentage. It has been a different story for John Gibson this year, he has missed some good periods of time due to injury, as well as representing USA at the WJHC but has come back down the stretch with some phenomenal goal tending (stats aside). Finally showing the fans of Kitchener, why he is so highly regarded in the US hockey system.

 

Breakdown

Powerplay

                Both these teams power plays are operating better than during the regular season. Despite the weapons that the London Knights have available for their powerplay, and the emergence of Matta being able to fire the puck from the blueline. Advantage goes to Kitchener as their options of Murphy or Sol on the point provide too much trouble for goaltenders when they have to deal with traffic in front of them as well. Rangers powerplay is operating at 26.2% efficiency while London’s is at 25%. Both higher than their 19% during the regular season.

 

ADVANTAGE: KITCHENER

 

Penalty Kill

                The London Knights have had a knack for no fear when it comes to penalty killing. The most underrated players have the ability to become trusted stars playing down a man. This year is no exception with the forward corps who is asked to play short handed. But when it comes to the playoffs, the Knights have been destroyed by the opposition. London has given up 11 goals while a man down out of 44 opportunities, or 75% efficiency. Despite playing at a 79% success rate during the regular season, Kitchener has locked down only allowing 3 PP goals on 40 attempts, a 92.5% success rate. The trend wont end in this series

 

ADVANTAGE: KITCHENER

 

Forwards

                No doubt that the forward talent on both teams are exceptional, you cannot make it to the Conference Finals if you didn’t, but with the loaded guns in Namestnikov, McKegg, Watson, Knight, Griffith and the young soon to be stars in both Ruperts, Tierney, Domi and Horvat. The match firepower for firepower game is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Rieder, Catenacci, Faksa, Randell, Thompson and Crescenzi just wont be able to match up. Especially if Spott tightens up his bench versus a free wheeling Mark Hunter

 

ADVANTAGE: LONDON

 

Defence

                I went into this with some detail above so simply put. Having trust in all 6 of your D is a greater advantage than just using your top 4. Hunter will surely shorten his bench to give more ice time to Tinordi and Matta, but you will see the 5 and 6 defenceman for London more often than the 3rd pairing for Kitchener

 

ADVANTAGE: LONDON

 

Goaltending

                The Goaltending battle is going to be fierce. Some have said Houser has a clear cut advantage due to him being a complete horse and his OHL experience. Others have given Gibson the nod because he hasn’t had as much work as Houser but enjoyed almost the same level of success (half as many GP, Half the W, better SV%). It is a battle of Pennsylvania on the OHL level and I am not sure if there is a winner. Small edge to Gibson as he is the more athletically gifted and thus has a higher chance of changing the game with an amazing save.

 

ADVANTAGE: KITCHENER

Saturday
Apr142012

Saginaw Spirit vs London Knights - Game 5 Review

by Cheyrl (@CDNSportySmurf)

Prior to the second round series between the London Knights and the Saginaw Spirit, much of the talk was about the two goaltenders. Undrafted Michael Houser of the Knights, tied the OHL league record for wins in a single season and draft-eligible Jake Paterson of the Spirit was recently ranked the number 3 North American goaltender by Central Scouting.  Either one of the two keepers were capable of stealing games for their teams.

Each of the first four games finished with identical scores of 5-2 with goaltending a factor in each pair of wins.  London’s victories in games 1 and 4 saw the Knights pepper Paterson with shots, score early and get the most out of their secondary scoring.  The Knights would chase the Spirit star in the pivotal game 4 in Saginaw after 3 goals in under 7 minutes and Houser would be at his brick wall best.  Saginaw’s wins in games 2 and 3 saw London run into penalty trouble and a hot powerplay in game 2 as well as an admittedly below-par game from Houser in game 3. With the exception of game 4, Paterson was keeping his team in every game.

With the series tied at 2 apiece, the teams returned to the John Labatt Centre for game 5.  London knew they would have to be better. Dormant stars Vladislav Namestnikov and Greg McKegg had scored in the previous game, but more was needed from these veterans.  Houser would have to be at his best, because Paterson was sure to come back with his best game. And not the least, the Knights would have to keep the defensive mistakes to a bare minimum and maintain their discipline.  Too often penalties were the biggest contributors to their losses.

After a couple of early chances, Seth Griffith finally hit the goal column in the series, tipping in a Tommy Hughes shot from the point just three minutes into the game.  But despite all the pressure the Knights applied and outstanding chances they made for themselves – Paterson would make that amazing save.  Time and again a London player would be stymied from close in on point-blank shots or shots off the rush, leaving the Knight shaking his head.  If not for his stellar play, the Spirit could have been down 4 0r 5 goals after the first period alone.  Down at the other end, Houser barely had to break a sweat as London outshot Saginaw 16-4.

The Spirit vowed to come out stronger in the second period and on the strength of several more stellar saves by Paterson, started to turn the momentum.  The ever-dangerous Brandon Saad began to pick up some chances along with Michael Fine, Josh Shalla and the agitating Victor Trocheck. Saginaw began to win all the puck battles. Faced with sustained pressure, the Knights had some defensive breakdowns, but were rescued by Houser who came up with some astounding saves of his own.  Neither team would allow a goal in the period.

Strangely enough, although there were a couple of scuffles, they only resulted in coincidental penalties. In fact, there would be only one powerplay awarded (to the Knights) during the entire game.  However, the scuffles did result in some renewed interest in physical play, to the detriment of the Saginaw defence corps. Austin Watson would deliver a check to Steven Strong on the end boards, causing Strong to go to the dressing room, favouring his right shoulder.  He would not return, leaving the Spirit with 5 defencemen for the remainder of the game.

With the Knights ahead by only a single goal, Saginaw pressed for the equalizer and they got it near the 3 minute mark of the third period.  The shots on goal were almost even although the chances appeared to favour the Knights. Both Paterson and Houser were called upon to make game-saving stops and neither backed down – throwing toe and blocker saves around like it was merely practice.

No further goalscoring in the third meant the first overtime game of the series and for the Knights, their first of the 2012 playoffs. Would all the ‘wasted’ chances come back to haunt the Knights or would they be able to finally put another one by the wall at the other end? Between the announcers, Twitter fans, and myself – I believe we’d run out of appropriate superlatives to describe Jake Paterson’s performance early in the second period.

It was apparent when the Knights came out for the extra period, however, that they were not overwhelmed by the opposition’s goaltender.  They threw the puck around and continued to create chances, doing the things they had been taught to do – cycle the puck and find the open man. It was on just such a play that Olli Maatta kept the puck in with a timely pinch down the boards and found Vladislav Namestnikov who, spinning off the defenceman in the corner, took the puck to the net and on the second try, stuffed the winning goal past Paterson’s outstretched pad.

By not allowing Paterson to ‘steal’ the game for his team, the London Knights find themselves on their way back to Saginaw with a chance to close out the series on Saturday night.  His terrific saves may have had the Knights shaking their heads at times, but they continued to work the puck to the net and at least forced him to make those saves.  Not only have they managed to solve the star goalie twice in the last two games, London hopes that the goals by Griffith and Namestnikov indicate their veteran stars have re-discovered their scoring touch.

Saturday will be a great test of wills at both ends of the ice.  Houser will have come off a key win where he out-dueled the opposition and Paterson will be hoping his team can help him out while he continues his amazing play in net.  They have done their part, both playing well enough to have stolen the victory,  but at the end of the day, reducing the number of wide-open, quality chances will increase their team’s chances to win. And that is a job for their teammates to address.

One final note – the three stars of the game were 1) Michael Houser, 2) Vladislav Namestnikov and 3) Jake Paterson.  Despite being a Knights fan and loving our star goalie, no offence House because you made some stellar saves yourself; I really believe that Jake Paterson was the star of this game. I don’t know how many times I asked myself, ‘How did that not go in??!’ or simply went ‘WOW.’  Maybe I’m just so used to House making those sorts of saves its no longer surprising?  Keep playing your game London – its working.