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Double OT Heroics!

March 26, 2013

Knights-SaginawWhen the London Knights walked all over the Saginaw Spirit in the opening game of their first round OHL playoff series, chasing star goaltender Jake Paterson, they knew it was just one game. And anyone who has seen Paterson play knows that he was going to be back in the net two days later, ready to shut the Knights down. Watching the game play itself out – neither party was wrong.

The Spirit charged out of the gate, pressuring the Knights, trying to force mistakes. The chippiness left over from the end of the last game ran through the first period of the next.  After two consecutive Saginaw powerplays, London was afforded an opportunity of their own, when Justin Kea was sent to the box for hooking. With Paterson stymieing the Knights, the Spirit started an odd man rush and Kea, just out of the box and behind Olli Maatta, slipped in the rebound off a Garrett Ross shot to give Saginaw their first lead.

Despite 5 consecutive powerplays starting from late in the 1st period, London was unable to solve Paterson.  Unfortunately, with rookie Kyle Platzer already in the box, Tommy Hughes tried to fire the puck out of the zone and was hit with a disputed delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck out of the rink. Saginaw’s Jimmy Lodge jumped on the 2-man advantage opportunity and suddenly the Knights were behind by two entering the third period.

It was not for lack of trying.  Paterson was the difference, as he made save after save.  But given the quality of the saves he was making, it was almost inevitable that if London was going to score, it wouldn’t be pretty. And there was no one better for the job than Bo Horvat. It came down to just throwing the  puck at the net and jamming the crease.  The Knights now had over half a period to catch up.

It took them almost all of that time to do it. Snakebitten in game 1, Horvat would jump on a loose puck in the crease and pot his second of the game with 0.3 seconds left in the third to send the game to overtime.  With Saginaw feeling the horn to end the game had sounded, the play went under review and came back in favour of the Knights. London had another life and Saginaw must have wondered what they had to do to finish them off.

While Horvat was the scoring hero, Anthony Stolarz was doing his thing to keep the Knights in the game.  He wasn’t as busy as his Spirit counterpart, but after Saginaw’s second goal, the big man shut the door – adding several stellar saves to his resumé.  Through the first overtime, the teams traded chances, with London squandering a rare powerplay opportunity.

Both teams were showing their exhaustion as they entered the second overtime. If the skaters were spent, it was incredible how the goalies were continuing to make outstanding stops, including one from Stolarz that slipped through him and hit the shaft of his fallen stick just in front of the goal line. And it took the 70th shot on the Saginaw net to end the game. It was a sweet feed from Alex Broadhurst to a charging Chris Tierney, who slid it between the pads of Jake Paterson.

With a little luck, the Spirit might have tied the series. Had the puck bounced over Stolarz’ stick or … but it didn’t.  Jake Paterson stood on his head and stopped 67 of 70 shots, but it hadn’t been enough and he didn’t even receive 1st star honours, those went to Bo Horvat, the hero for the other team. The game was over and the Knights were leading the series 2-0.

So, what does coach Greg Gilbert do to get his team up for the next game at home? He tells them that game 2 was exactly how he wanted them to play. That their goalie did everything right and that they’ve shown that they could stick with the league-leading London Knights. Now their job was to take to their home ice and do it all again. Only better.

And the Knights? Well, they go on the road knowing that they’re in the driver’s seat, but well aware that that guy in the mask at the other end of the ice? He’s really, really good. And if they don’t take advantage of their opportunities, say those 9 powerplays they didn’t score on – he’ll burn them.


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