Two third period goals lifted the London Knights to a 5-3 win over the Sarnia Sting at Budweiser Gardens on Saturday night.
Sabres’ prospect Cliff Pu scored one of them and set up the other and in doing so helped the Knights into a 4-way tie for second place in the overall Ontario Hockey League standings, just two points behind first place Erie, who finished the month of October with a 10-1-1 record. London came through the month at 7-1-2.
Goalies were a big story from the get-go. London was without Tyler Parsons (day-to-day with a lower body injury) and Tyler Johnson (week-to-week with a lower body injury). That opened the door for Emanuel Vella and he used the old adage of putting anything necessary in front of the puck as he made 29 saves, two of them with his head.
At the other end of the ice, 16-year old Blair Coffin made his Ontario Hockey League debut, after signing with the Sting on Tuesday.
Coffin got a very early “Welcome-to-the-OHL” as two NHL prospects named Max Jones and Cliff Pu tore down the ice on a two-on-oh in the game’s first minute of play. Jones charged in deep and dished back to Pu, but Coffin got his left pad on the shot to make a rather dramatic first save.
Just seconds later, with the puck at the extreme other end of the ice, Jaden Lindo of the Sarnia Sting tapped a backhand in front that went off Vella and across the goal line for a 1-0 Sarnia lead, just 41 seconds after the opening face-off.
The Knights tied the game on Sam Miletic’s seventh goal of the year as Robby Thomas got the puck to the front of the net and Miletic banged it in.
London continued to fire pucks at the Sarnia net, but it was the Sting who managed to take the lead with less than three minutes remaining in the first on a rocket of a shot by Nikita Korostelev from the left side of the Knights’ zone with the Sting on a power play.
That 2-1 lead lasted all of 18 seconds as Miletic skated across the Sarnia blue line and beat Coffin high to the glove side.
Less than a minute later, the Knights took their first lead of the game as Olli Juolevi and Janne Kuokkanen combined for the first time. Juolevi’s shot was deflected into the Sting net by Kuokkanen and London went to the dressing room with a 3-2 lead.
Sarnia got the only goal of the second period as Franco Sproviero wristed a pass to the right side of the London net and left rookie Sean Josling with a tap-in for his second OHL goal to tie the game 3-3.
A tussle between London’s Chris Martenet and Sarnia’s Louis Latta with less than three minutes remaining in the second period, resulted in Martenet receiving a major, a minor and a match for cross-checking. Latta a roughing minor and put the Knights’ penalty kill to work.
Not only did it work, it produced a goal as Max Jones charged into the Sarnia zone and forced Coffin to play a puck around the boards a little more quickly than he wanted to. Pu was there to pick off the clearing attempt and was able to get to the net. Pu’s first shot was stopped, but the former Toronto Marlie found the rebound and popped it under the bar to put London in the lead 4-3.
Pu helped to put London up by two goals as he and Kuokkanen skated down the ice and into Sting territory. Kuokkanen fed Pu, who was stopped by Coffin, but Pu stayed on the puck, skated around to the left side of the Sarnia end and fed a cross-ice pass back to Kuokkanen and he fired home his second of the game to finish the scoring at 5-3.
Max Jones received a five minute major for interference late in the game, but London managed to kill the remaining 3:58 of regulation. Jones did extend his points streak to eight games. Cliff Pu’s streak is now at nine games.
The victory was Dale Hunter’s 649th as an OHL Head Coach.
The Knights head out for their first extended road trip this week. They will visit the North Bay Battalion on Thursday and head for the old Minto Street Arena in Sudbury to face the Wolves on Friday night. Both games will be heard on AM 980 and at play.am980.ca