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OHL Championship Series: London Knights 2 vs Niagara IceDogs 3 2OT

May 3, 2012

As expected the first game of the OHL Championship Series between London Knights and the Niagara IceDogs was a game of balance.   Mitchell Theoret would open the scoring at the 4 minute mark and Max Domi would get London on the board.  After the first period, the shots on goal were tied, the score was tied and neither team was really taking hold of the game.

Niagara would find their feet first and dominated the second period, forcing Michael Houser to make several stellar saves. They outshot the Knights, Brett Ritchie played a great game of keep-away and single-handedly kept the Knights bottled up in their zone for shifts at a time. London did manage a few good chances, especially on the one powerplay they received, but Mark Visentin was stellar.  The end result was a 2-1 lead on a shot from OHL Overager of the Year, Andrew Agozzino.

The third period was as balanced a period as could be desired. 4 powerplays each, and on a too-many-men-on-the-ice that evened things up at 4 aside, Seth Griffith converted a beautiful pass on a 2-on-1.  Not a powerplay goal, but a tying goal nonetheless.  The Knights powerplay received a shot in the arm with the return of Greg McKegg, created some chances but was not rewarded. They’ll have to improve on that if they expect to continue the series – they need to take advantage of every opportunity.

The tying goal rejuvenated the Knights, who had been on their heels for the beginning of the period.  With much of the play in the IceDogs zone, the shots on goal began to even out.  An excursion outside of his net almost provided the go ahead goal, but Houser scrambled back just in time.  Niagara got a boost from that chance, but the teams would trade chances to the end of the period. Even again.  Unsurprisingly the game headed to overtime.

Generally, overtime games are either decided quite early in the initial period, or they go on forever. With 2 penalties in the first 7 minutes of the first overtime period, the IceDogs were given golden chances to finish the Knights off.  Conversely, kills from London, including a short-handed opportunity from Vladislav Namestnikov brought them right back into the game. Nothing would be decided in the first overtime and fans felt their hearts in their throats.

Going into the 2nd O/T period with 12 shots apiece, I thought my head would explode.  Biased, I know, but I felt that the hockey gods ought to favour the Knights, given their penalty kills. But at this point, it was only about a chance, a bounce or a slip. Who was going to get it? A Knights goal and the JLC would erupt. An IceDog goal and there would be those saying ‘the refs were against us’ or ‘I told you so – Niagara is too strong.’

The game would end at the 9:03 of the 2nd overtime after a number of back and forth shifts in which each team was looking for a break.  A Dougie Hamilton shot into a crowd in front of Houser would be tipped by Olli Maatta and it was heartbreak for the Knights and their fans. Niagara’s veterans came to the fore – Visentin, Agozzino, Ritchie and Dougie Hamilton.  Truly though, the hockey fan was treated to a game with a little bit of everything and its only the first game of the series.  Can it get any better? You bet it can!

There was very little gritty playoff bumping in front of the net or in the corners. Expect that to change.  Didn’t see a whole lot of the Chris Tierney, Bo Horvat, Josh Anderson line that was key in the first two series of the playoffs, their energy might come  into play. Broken record, but the Knights HAVE to get their PP on the board.  The bigger IceDogs can’t be allowed to take liberties without having to pay the price. But above all, keep playing their game – one shot, one bounce. Perhaps the puck should have been out of the zone, but there were no drastic breakdowns handing Niagara the game on a plate.  Its just game one and Saturday London has a chance to get back on the ice and put it behind them.

Go Knights Go!

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