There were times during eight straight games away from home that the London Knights looked a little out of whack.
They returned home and got some things back in whack on Friday night with a 6-3 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs.
Ryan Winterton scored three times and picked up an assist, all in the second period, as London erased a 2-0 deficit with a dominant 20 minutes in the middle period. The Knights outshot Kingston 25-5 and outscored the Frontenacs 5-0 in that span and rode that momentum to a win in their first home game since Feb. 24.
For the fourth time in their last five games London found themselves fighting back from an early deficit.
A power play goal from Ethan Miedema and a deflection by Nathan Poole had Kingston out in front 2-0 through 20 minutes. The Knights had outshot the Frontenacs 13-7 in the opening period but Mason Vaccari knocked aside ever one of them.
London came out of the gates in the second period with seven shots at Vaccari in the first one minute and 48 seconds and Vaccari made seven more saves.
Then London picked up a penalty and that the stage for Kingston to add to their lead.
But the Knights kept coming. First Sean McGurn poked a puck across the goal line on a second effort after a give-and-go at 5:33 with Easton Cowan and the Budweiser Gardens crowd erupted at a hockey game for the first time in three weeks.
That must have sounded good to the London bench because Max McCue lofted a puck into the slot 29 seconds later and Winterton knocked into the Frontenacs net to tie the game 2-2.
Just over four minutes after that McCue found Winterton again with a pass from behind the net and the Knights led.
Winterton set up Logan Mailloux for Mailloux’s 24th goal of the season at the 16:04 mark and then Winterton finished the first hat trick of his OHL career just 1:24 later on a power play and London was ahead 5-2 through 40 minutes. Mailloux ended the game with a goal and two assists and moved into seventh place on the all-time single season goals list by a Knights defenceman.
London outshot Kingston 25-5 in the second period.
Brody Crane turned on the jets and flew down the left wing after a Brett Brochu pass. Crane caught up to it and buried his 12th goal of the year to make it 6-3 for the Knights.
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Christopher Thibodeau added a final goal with under five minutes remaining in the game to close out the scoring.
London outshot the Frontenacs 43-24 in the game.
The victory was the 899th of Dale Hunter’s career.
The Knights played without Ethan MacKinnon, Landon Sim and Denver Barkey. All three were out with injuries.
London remains two points back of the Windsor Spitfires for top spot in the Western Conference. Windsor blanked Sault Ste. Marie 3-0 on Friday. Both teams have four games remaining and two of those game are against each other.
Playoff dates set
It could very take until the final day of the OHL’s regular season in order to determine the first-round matchups for the playoffs but the first two home playoff dates have been unveiled by the Knights.
Game 1 against Saginaw, Flint, Owen Sound, Guelph or the Kitchener Rangers will take place on Friday, March 31 at 7 p.m., at Budweiser Gardens. Game 2 is set for Sunday, April 2 at 2 p.m., at Budweiser Gardens and ticket information can be found at www.londonknights.com
Sam Gagner’s season ends
As his Winnipeg Jets try to keep their spot inside the National Hockey League playoff picture, the season for former London Knight Sam Gagner has officially ended.
Gagner will undergo surgery to repair a hip injury. He has not played a game since Feb. 28, but did appear in his 1000th career game this season. Gagner spent the 2006-07 season with the Knights before being selected sixth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.
Gagner made the Oilers at the age of 18.
The Knights head for Flint, Mich., for a game against the Firebirds on Saturday, March 18 at 7 p.m.
Firewagon hockey was first talked about in the 1950s and then boomed in the 1980s. It was a time when teams that could outscore their opponents won a lot. That is Flint in 2022-23. They can score and they can allow goals as well. How that fits into playoff hockey will determine how far the fire in the Firebirds is able to go.
Coverage starts at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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