Saginaw Spirit use big third period to defeat London Knights 7-5
The London Knights and Saginaw Spirit put on a show on Dec. 2 in the home of the 2024 Memorial Cup, as the Spirit outlasted London 7-5.
The game featured the top two power plays in the Ontario Hockey League. They did not disappoint, scoring a combined five goals on six chances.
The goals came early as Max McCue found the back of the Saginaw net just 56 seconds into the game. McCue took a beautiful little tap pass from Sam O’Reilly that allowed McCue to cut across the top of the slot to the left. He fired a low shot to the bottom right corner of the Spirit net, past Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Nolan Lalonde and London led 1-0.
The Knights made it 2-0 on the only power play of the opening period. Kasper Halttunen got a puck from the left side of the Saginaw zone to the right side where Easton Cowan directed a pass into the right corner. Jacob Julian put the puck immediately into the slot where Oliver Bonk scored his sixth goal of the season.
London held Saginaw to just three shots on goal through the first 18 minutes of the game.
The Spirit came out and lived up to their nickname in the second period. They turned a spirited start into a 2-2 tie as first Strathroy’s Hunter Haight and then Rodwin Dionicio scored for Saginaw. Dionicio put on a display of athleticism as he carried the puck in from the left point, jumped by a defender and chipped a puck under the crossbar.
The tie lasted all of 48 seconds before London forward Ruslan Gazizov showed off a major move of his own. He went inside-outside coming across the Spirit blue line and then fed a gorgeous backhand pass across the ice to Denver Barkey for Barkey’s 15th goal of the season and a 3-2 Knights lead.
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Kasper Halttunen hammered home his 19th goal on a London power play at 14:44 of the second period to restore the Knights two-goal lead at 4-2.
Before the end of the period Saginaw got back to within a goal courtesy of Matyas Sapovaliv and London’s lead sat at 4-3 entering the final 20 minutes.
An early third period push saw the Spirit score three times in a span of three minutes and 18 seconds to grab the lead.
A Saginaw power play tied the game for the second time as Calem Mangone snapped a shot past Michael Simpson at the 1:34 mark.
Less than a minute later Lincoln Moore put a shot off the right post and in to give the Spirit their first lead of the game and then Ethan Hay batted a puck over the goal line and Saginaw led 6-4.
A London man advantage got them back to within a goal as defenceman Sam Dickinson sent a laser of a wrist shot into the top corner of the Spirit net, with 8:17 remaining in the third period.
Michael Misa scored an empty-netter for Saginaw with 22.4 seconds left to finish the scoring.
Saginaw outshot the Knights 33-18.
London was 3-for-3 on the power play. The Spirit were 2-for-3.
Saginaw has now won 12 of their past 13 games.
Hockey Prospect Top-32 for 2024 NHL Draft
HockeyProspect.com is out with their November top-32 ranking for the upcoming 2024 NHL Entry Draft in June. Knights defenceman Sam Dickinson is slated fourth in behind a top three of Macklin Celebrini of Boston University, Cayden Lindstrom of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers and Russian-born defenceman Anton Silayev. Silayev is six-feet-seven-inches tall. Winger Ivan Demidov of SKA St. Petersburg rounds out the top-5. Londoner Jett Luchanko of the Guelph Storm came in at number 32 on the list.
Knights set to host Teddy Bear toss
London and Sarnia will meet at Budweiser Gardens on Tuesday, Dec. 5 for the Knights annual Teddy Bear Toss in support of the Salvation Army. Easton Cowan scored the Teddy Bear Toss goal for London last year in a game against the Oshawa Generals. The record for Teddy Bears at Budweiser Gardens was set back in 2012 when Seth Griffith scored and brought down a total of 10 671 plush toys. Fans are asked to place their toys in bags. All toys will be collected by the Salvation Army and donated to children in the London area.
The Knights will meet the Sarnia Sting on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens. The game will mark the second leg of the six-game regular season series between the two clubs known as the Battle of the 402. The Sting defeated London 5-3 in Sarnia on Oct. 14.
The team that earns the most point in the season series will win the second annual “Finch Cup.” The Knights captured the inaugural title in 2022-23.
Coverage will begin at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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