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Game 1 OHL Playoffs: London Knights 3 vs Windsor Spitfires 0

March 25, 2012

Real Life stepped in and I missed getting my pre-series post out, but the first game of the series was all a London fan could hope for. The saying that ‘playoff battles breed rivalries’ was fully validated. Historically, these close western neighbours have had some of the hardest fought games in playoff history. And this game was no different. It had everything a game between the two Western Conference rivals should have: hitting, great saves, flashy goals and, of course, fights.

In front of a full house at the John Labatt Centre, the Knights came out somewhat tentatively, but their confidence grew after a highlight reel goal by Vladislav Namestnikov about 7 minutes into the first period. The recently-NHL-signed Russian turned defenceman Jeff Braithwaite inside out, danced by him and zipped a shot past goaltender Jaroslav Pavelka.

The Knights’ energy line of Bo Horvat, Chris Tierney, and Josh Anderson provided the next goal.  Horvat, showing the strength and skill that made him the 9th overall pick in the 2011 OHL draft, dragged the Spitfires‘ Brandon Devlin along for the ride and bulled his way to the net to score the second goal of the game. London absolutely swarmed the Windsor net from that moment on.

Pavelka standing on his head was the only reason Windsor wasn’t well out of the game after the second period.  Stellar saves on Max Domi and Jarred Tinordi at the end of the second left the Spitfires only down two goals, despite being almost doubled in shots. But the Knights had been beaten by Pavelka not two weeks ago, throwing everything they had at him and failing, so London was well aware that the game was not over. Michael Houser was in tough to keep his focus facing a low number of both shots and actual scoring chances.

Windsor was presented with a great opportunity when Matt Rupert picked up his second interference penalty of the game, but the Spits were stymied and Jared Knight finished the scoring on a power play shortly afterwards.  While the game had been tough, with the Knights showing they could play a physical as well as skilled game, it began to get chippy after the third goal.

A confrontation between Tommy Hughes and Chris Marchese was the start of the mass fisticuffs that would continue to the end of the game. Despite having enough time to get back in the game Windsor apparently decided to ‘send the message’ that they weren’t going to be pushovers.  A tussle for position turned into line brawl with everyone on the ice involved when Brendan McCann gave Domi a glove-on punch to the visor and engaged him before being grabbed by Greg McKegg.  Finally, it was a Zack McQueen bump on Houser behind the net, predictably drawing a crowd of Knights.

The game went according to script for the Knights. They played a strong defensive game led by Scott Harrington and Tinordi, their snipers scored (Knight and Namestnikov), their grind line provided a goal from Horvat and although he didn’t have to steal the game, Michael Houser copped the shutout.  Not only was their skill and speed on display, they managed to stay level with the Spitfires in hits and stood up for each other when necessary.  They’ll need more of the same when they head to Windsor on Sunday.

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