Wayne Gretzky always breaks a hockey season into four parts: The pre-season, the regular season, the playoffs and a championship series and each one is another step up.
A young London lineup got to see the steepness of that step in Sarnia on opening night of the 2016-17 OHL season in a 4-1 loss to the Sarnia Sting.
“I think a lot of the young guys will lose the nerves for our next game against Erie,” said Knights’ goalie Tyler Johnson, who faced 31 shots. “The regular season is different that the pre-season because guys are coming at you a lot harder.”
London’s fresh faces felt that a few times for London as the Sting forced some first period turnovers, but the Knights held them off. London even created the majority of the scoring chances, making use of three power plays, but found themselves in a scoreless tie after the initial 20 minutes.
The newest member of the Sarnia Sting opened the scoring in the second period as Jaden Lindo tipped home an Adam Ruzicka shot on a Sarnia man advantage to make it 1-0. Lindo is an overager and was acquired from Owen Sound earlier in the week.
The game began to open up in the third period and while the chances weren’t exactly as plentiful as potholes in the spring, the goaltenders were definitely busier and while it was the Sting who scored three of the four goals, Knights’ assistant coach Rick Steadman saw some positives.
“We started picking up the pace in the third period and using our speed more and that really began to push their “D” back.”
As much as that will be something to build on, Steadman didn’t hesitate in breaking down things that need to be done differently.
“We made a couple of mistakes that ended up as goals and went to the penalty box a little too much, which always causes trouble, but they worked hard and got more and more chances.”
Sarnia jumped ahead 2-0 on the first of three goals by both teams in the span of 1:13. The veteran deflected a Lindo pass into the London net. Just 24 seconds later, Alex Formenton used his speed down left wing to get past a Sting defender and centered a pass to second year Knights’ forward Robby Thomas to bring the Knights back to within a goal, but Sarnia got that back courtesy of Ryan McGregor.
Spinozzi scored his second of the game at 12:14 on a Sting man advantage to finish the scoring.
To make anyone watching the game feel ancient, London had three players on the ice who were born in the year 2000 and the Sting had two.
Victor Mete and C.J. Yakimowicz returned from their NHL training camps and both played in the game and provided some steadying voices on the bench.
Fourteen players who could play for the Knights this season remain away. The World Cup of Hockey pushed back the start dates of NHL training camps and most teams will be missing bodies to start the season. The Knights lead the league in that category.
London will have a day to practice and will them host their own home opener on Friday night against the Erie Otters. Tickets have been released for the game and are available at the London Knights’ Armouries, online at www.londonknights.com or by phone at 519-681-0800.
The Memorial Cup banner raising ceremony will begin at 7:30.
You can hear coverage throughout the day on Friday on AM 980 and player.am980.ca.
GameKnight will begin at 6:30.