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Knights 5 vs Saginaw 2: The Field is Level Again

April 12, 2012

The OHL’s best turnaround story of the season was starting to look like London’s worst nightmare.  Once the Saginaw Spirit changed coaches at the 30 game mark, the doormat team became the team no-one wanted to face in the playoffs.  Greg Gilbert has the Spirit playing solid hockey and with Brandon Saad, Victor Trocheck and Jake Paterson leading the way, they’ve played themselves into a 2-1 lead in their second-round series with the OHL’s regular season champs.

Despite losing Game 3, if it were not for the goaltending of Paterson, London could have overwhelmed the Spirit.  The key to their return to the win column would be the Knights’ ability to cash in on their chances and stay out of the penalty box.  Powerplay goals in both of their losses had been their downfall. They’d need to grab the momentum early and keep the pressure on and be disciplined.

Since Game 3, the London’s players and management had been stating that they needn’t change their game drastically, just be more disciplined and make the most of their chances. True to form, they came out flying in the first period with a goal from Josh Anderson just over 2 minutes in.  Austin Watson and Vladislav Namestnikov would also hit the scoreboard, helping to chase Paterson with 3 goals on 7 shots before the 7 minute mark. Backup Clint Windsor gave up another goal to Matt Rupert under the 16 shot onslaught just before the end of the period and the Knights would take a 4-0 lead into the dressing room with only the final buzzer penalty to Jarred Tinordi as a blemish on a stellar first period.

The second period wouldn’t be quite as spectacular for the Knights. The Spirit would again score on the powerplay with the  Tinordi penalty carrying over from the first period. The Knights would again find themselves with several chances but were stoned by Windsor, who proved to be a solid backup. The momentum really seemed to swing Saginaw’s way when Trocheck scored his second goal to put the Spirit back into the game.

Saginaw took the energy they found at the end of the second period and kept the pressure on throughout the third period, firing 13 shots at Michael Houser.  Houser, who had admitted that he didn’t like his own play in Game 3, was back at his sparkling best, allowing the Knights to weather the storm.  Greg McKegg would score with the Spirit net empty to close out the scoring as London tied up the series at 2 games apiece. Coincidentally, each game of the series has ended with a final score of 5-2 for the victor.

The outcome in favour of the Knights was due in no small part to Houser’s return to form, but the fact that they also managed to stay out of the penalty box for most of the game.  Neither powerplay was the factor it was in the first three games and a big kill with less than 7 minutes left in the third period after Ryan Rupert was tagged for running the goalie provided a boost when Saginaw was pressing.  Add the quick start, chasing the Spirit’s star goalie and goals from all lines and the Knights are up and running again.

The series is all level and Game 5 is back on familiar ground at the John Labatt Centre.  Its now a best-of-three and time for the Knights to make the JLC a little more frightening for the opposition.  Playing like they did on Wednesday night could give them the edge.

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