Losing two goalies to injury at the same time might have many coaches awake at night.
With Tyler Parsons and Tyler Johnson both out of the lineup, Dale Hunter simply pointed to the next man up.
“It creates an opportunity for (Emanuel Vella) to come in and stand up big and show ‘I can play in this league.’”
And on Thursday in North Bay, that is exactly what Vella did.
Vella earned a second straight first star selection and his first career OHL shutout in a 7-0 victory that lifted Hunter’s OHL win total to 650.
The Toronto native kicked aside 29 shots, coming up especially big in a 5-on-3 short-handed situation with the game already out of North Bay’s reach.
“This is not an easy building to play in. I was here in my 16-year old year and my 17-year old year and lost both times, so to beat a team like this on the road regardless of the shutout is big for us.”
Hunter was the fastest OHL coach to 500 and 600 victories and he hit 650 wins in a mind-boggling 974 games. http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=2419
The Knights pushed the Battalion back onto their heels early, scoring twice inside the first four minutes.
Off a faceoff in the London zone, the puck went dribbling toward the blue line, right in between the two North Bay defenders and they froze in a “Who is going to take this?” stance long enough for Max Jones to lunge and whack a pass to Janne Kuokkanen as he broke toward the red line. Kuokkanen zoomed in on a breakaway and scored his ninth goal of the year to make it 1-0.
Kuokkanen helped to set up Jones just under two minutes later as he stripped a puck away outside the Battalion blue line, got it to Cliff Pu and Pu sped deep into North Bay territory and sent a crisp pass to Jones, who was cutting to the net. Jones popped a backhand past Brent Moran and London was up by two.
Victor Mete grabbed a puck in centre ice before the end of the first period, skated inside the blue line, took a rather large hit, and still managed to get the puck to Robby Thomas and then seemed to turn invisible to the Battalion defence for a few seconds as he slipped into the slot. Thomas fed the puck back to Mete and he scored his sixth goal of the season and it was 3-0 Knights.
Two second period power play goals by Robby Thomas and Alex Formenton increased the London lead to 5-0 .
Cliff Pu’s ninth of the year made it 6-0 early in the third and then Josh Nelson and Brady Pataki combined on their first points as London Knights as Nelson stole a puck on the penalty kill and dished it ahead to Pataki for a short-handed breakaway goal to close out the scoring.
Thomas and Kuokkanen each had a goal and two assists on the night.
The Knights will visit the Sudbury Wolves on Friday, before coming home to face Hamilton at Budweiser Gardens on Sunday afternoon. You can hear both games on AM 980. Tickets for Sunday’s game can be purchased at 519-681-0800 X 1, at the Knights’ Armouries, just off Talbot Street or online at www.londonknights.com