The game was going along a familiar path as time wound down in the third period between the London Knights and the Guelph Storm on Wednesday night at Budweiser Gardens.
For the third game in a row the two clubs found themselves tied with under two minutes to go.
In both games before Wednesday the Storm had found a way to win.
On Wednesday, the Knights made sure there wasn’t another repeat.
Alec Regula snagged a puck around the Guelph blue line in overtime and fed it to Jason Willms and he beat Nico Daws in the Storm net to give the London Knights a 4-3 victory that moved London back into first place in the Western Conference.
“[Willms] is a heart and soul guy who doesn’t have the sexiest job out there in shutting down every top line … so to get that goal in a game like tonight was good for him,” said Knights assistant coach Dylan Hunter.
Giving themselves a chance at that goal took some doing as London battled back from a 2-0 first period deficit. Second-year Storm defenceman Daniil Chayka grabbed a loose puck in front of the Knight net and lifted it past Brett Brochu for a 1-0 lead at 16:35.
Just over two minutes later and with the Knights on the power play, Guelph goalie Nico Daws flipped the puck up the boards and Keegan Stevenson got to it and raced across the London blue line on a short-handed breakaway and scored his 20th goal of the season to make it 2-0 through 20 minutes.
Connor McMichael scored his 42nd goal of the year on a man advantage 3:46 into the second period to cut the Storm lead in half.
The Knights pressed for the tying goal the rest of the way in the second as they outshot Guelph 13-6 but London could not beat Daws and the collapsing Storm defence.
A beautiful play by Nathan Dunkley to find Tonio Stranges in front early in the third period tied the game 2-2 and then London went ahead as Billy Moskal put home his own rebound under four minutes later.
Guelph found a way back as they knotted the game again with just over five minutes to play on a goal by Ben McFarlane.
That set the stage for an exciting overtime that went four minutes and 32 seconds and in which each club had four shots on goal and even more chances to win it.
The Knights are one of the top faceoff teams in the OHL and they dominated draws all game, taking 42 out of 57 on the night.
London will practice Thursday and then host the Soo Greyhounds at Budweiser Gardens on Friday night.
Four fighting for first in the West
A 14-game winning streak by the Flint Firebirds has made first place in the Western Conference a four-horse race between Flint, London, Kitchener and the Saginaw Spirit. Right now if they were heading down the backstretch they wouldn’t just be neck and neck. There would hardly be a full length between them. The Knights sit atop the conference with 80 points. Kitchener is next with 79. Flint has 78 points but the Firebirds own the second playoff seed because they are in first place in the West Division. The Saginaw Spirit are right behind with 77 points. The Firebirds have 10 games remaining, Kitchener and Saginaw have 11 to go and the Knights still have 12.
Five former Knights dealt at NHL deadline
Vladislav Namestnikov was the first former London Knight to change teams right before the National Hockey League’s trade deadline. He was dealt from Ottawa to Colorado on the morning of Feb. 24 for a fourth-round pick.
The Toronto Maple Leafs swapped former London goalie Michael Hutchinson for defenceman Calle Rosen in a deal with the Avalanche.
Two ex-Knights were traded for each other in a deal between Detroit and Edmonton. The Oilers sent Sam Gagner and two 2nd round picks to the Red Wings for Andreas Athanasiou and prospect Ryan Kuffner.
Finally, Janne Kuokkanen was involved in a deal that took place right before the 3 p.m. Eastern deadline. He was part of a package that the Carolina Hurricanes sent to New Jersey to acquire defenceman Sami Vatanen.
London will host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds on Friday, Feb. 28, at 7:30 at Budweiser Gardens. London went from 2016 to 2019 without beating the ‘Hounds but they have grabbed wins in both games that the teams have played so far this season. London won in overtime on December 1 and then pounded Sault Ste. Marie 7-1 on the back of a four-point game from Luke Evangelista.
The Knights will go to Erie, Pa., on Sunday, March 1 to play the Otters. When that one ends London will be down to ten games remaining on their regular-season schedule.
Coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday on 980 CFPL, at http://www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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