Two goals, 15 seconds apart in the third period, turned a one-goal lead into a one goal deficit for the London Knights as they fell 4-3 to the Firebirds in Flint, Mich., on Saturday night.
Gavin Hayes and Riley Piercey both hit milestones in the final twenty minutes as Hayes scored his 40th and then Piercey picked up his 20th and the Firebirds won to split the season series between the teams.
London and Flint zoomed end to end for the first six minutes of the game and piled up nine shots and three goals.
Sean McGurn opened the scoring for the Knights after he dug the rebound from an Oilver Bonk shot off the pad of Firebirds goalie Will Cranley and backhanded home his 27th goal of the season at the 1:49 mark of the first period. That gave the London forward 80 points on the season.
Two and a half minutes later Nolan Dann scored for Flint to the tie game as the former Sarnia Sting forward took a feed from Maple Leafs prospect Braeden Kressler on two-on-one and deked it past Brett Brochu in goal for the Knights.
Gavin Hayes gave the Firebirds the lead when he banged in a pass from the edge of the London crease at 5:47 and Flint took a 2-1 advantage to the dressing room.
London got back to even early in the second period as McGurn snagged a puck from a Flint stick in the Knights zone and whipped a lead pass to Max McCue and he went in on a partial breakaway and snapped his 13th goal of the season low to the glove side of Cranley at the 1:21 mark.
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Sam Dickinson’s ninth of the year at 5:59 of the second put the Knights ahead 3-2 on a beautiful four-way passing play featuring McCue, George Diaco and Brody Crane.
The score stayed that way until Gavin Hayes chased down a puck that was flipped high into the air and then Piercey scored just those 15 seconds later.
The Firebirds held from there as Cranley made a few key stops late.
London outshot Flint 36-30.
The Knights missed out on an opportunity to draw even with the Windsor Spitfires atop the Western Conference standings. Windsor was blown out 8-2 by the Greyhounds in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., on Saturday.
London and the Spitfires will meet twice in their final three games of their seasons.
Three Ex-Knights off to University Cup final
Former Knights Jason Willms, Cody Morgan and Camaryn Baber will have a chance to win a championship on March 19. All three are part of the UNB Reds and all three have factored into a quarter-final victory over the Concordia Stingers and a 6-3 semi-final win on March 18 over the UQTR Patriots that will see the Reds go head to head with the Alberta Golden Bears for the University Cup.
Morgan scored one of the two goals and Willms recorded an assist in UNB’s 2-1 win over Concordia in a quarter-final matchup on March 16.
Willms scored a goal in the semis and Baber added an assist to push UNB into the title game.
Knights set to show off skills
The London Knights 2023 Skills Competition will be held on Sunday, March 19 beginning at noon at Budweiser Gardens. The event is free and fans can enter through Gate 4. Doors will open at 11:30. Knights players will compete in events like fastest skater and hardest shot. The event had been scheduled to take place earlier in the season but was post-poned due to bad weather.
London will play three games in three days to close out the regular season and they will decide first place in the Western Conference.
On Friday, March 24 the Knights will host the Windsor Spitfires in the first of a home-and-home that will continue the next night in Windsor, Ont.
London returns home to Budweiser Gardens on Sunday, March 26 for a 6 p.m. game against the Kitchener Rangers.
All games can be heard on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app. Coverage begins 30 minutes before the drop of the puck.
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