Adrian Carbonara gave the London Knights their first lead of the afternoon with 2:29 left in regulation as London celebrated New Year’s Day with a 5-3 win in Sarnia.
Carbonara brought the puck to the net and made a nifty move to his backhand to score what would stand up as the game winner.
“We kept sticking to our came,” says Carbonara. “After a seven minute penalty kill in the second and a couple of other curveballs, it was nice to be able to persevere in the end.”
The game seemed to capture the look of hockey going back through the past 30 years. You had the toughness of the 1980s, the grit and physicality of the 90s, the penalty calls of the early 2000s and the speed and skating of the game today, all rolled into one.
Ryan McGregor put the Sting ahead 1-0 as he banged in a rebound to the right of the London net in the first period.
The Knights played the game without injured forwards Max Jones and Sam Miletic. With Olli Juolevi and Janne Kuokkanen still at the World Juniors, London was missing 54 goals, so it seemed to make sense that their first goal came from a first year player. Brandon Crawley found Alex Formenton with a stretch pass on a power play and Formenton raced in from the blue line, deked Sting goalie, Justin Fazio and slipped a backhand through his legs to tie the game 1-1.
Formenton says you need a big effort to win games that seem harder to win then usual.
“Hard work is key. You also have to forget about things that aren’t going your way and everyone did a good job of that.”
Crawley was given a penalty and game misconduct for head-butting just over nine minutes later and Sarnia jumped back in front. With all kinds of commotion in the London crease, the puck squirted to Blues’ draft pick, Jordan Kyrou and he scored to put the Sting ahead for the second time, 2-1.
With the Knights still short-handed, Evan Bouchard chose to play a game of wills with the Sarnia power play unit. After a long time between whistles and line changes, Bouchard got to a puck in the London zone and began to carry it to centre. He made enough moves that by the time he got to the Sarnia blue line, the Knights had a 2-on-1 and Bouchard fed London captain, J.J. Piccinich and he scored the first of three short-handed goals between the teams on the day to tie the game at two.
Franco Sproviero got to a puck inside the Knights’ blue line just over three minutes into the third period, picking off a pass from Tyler Johnson to Nic Mattinen on a London power play and he snapped a shot past Johnson, giving the Sting the lead for a third time.
Again, London found a way back. Owen MacDonald got London’s twelfth short-handed goal of the year as carried the puck into the high slot and ripped in his second goal in two games to bring things back even with under fifteen minutes to go.
Johnson and Fazio made it tough on both offenses from there. Johnson’s best save came off a lunge at a Sean Josling rebound try that he grabbed right out of the air. Fazio got a piece of pad on a MacDonald deke at the other end of the ice and the large and noisy crowd in Sarnia started talking about overtime.
Carnonara’s goal changed that conversation in a hurry and J.J. Piccinich became the first London Knight not named Cliff Pu to score into an empty net this season and the Knights sealed their first win of 2017 and their third in four tries against the Sting. London also preserved the best winning percentage in the OHL, drawing to within one point of the Soo Greyhounds with two games in hand.
The Knights got some help from the Kitchener Rangers on Sunday, as they doubled up Erie 4-2.
Next up for the Knights is a trip to Windsor on Tuesday and a game against the Memorial Cup host Spitfires. London will be back home on Friday, January 6th to play the Sudbury Wolves at 7:30.
Photo Credit: (Claus Anderson/Getty Images)