Nathan Dunkley gets OT winner as London Knights knock off Niagara

It was a tale of three periods (and a bit.)

The London Knights came back to defeat the Niagara Ice Dogs 5-4 in overtime on a goal by Nathan Dunkley at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines on Thursday night.

London scored twice in the first period. The Ice Dogs came back with four straight goals in the second period and the Knights tied the game with two in the third.

“We didn’t really change anything going into the third period,” said London assistant coach Rick Steadman. “We just kept harping on outworking them. We knew all we needed was a couple of shots on net and we knew if we could get a lucky bounce we could go from there.”

The Knights wound up making their own luck. They outshot Niagara 19-7 in the final period and 3-0 in overtime. London was helped out in OT by the fact that the Ice Dogs took two penalties. The first went to Ben Jones as he slashed a stick away from London’s Joey Keane to prevent a scoring chance. The second was a bench minor.

Niagara killed off the first penalty but Dunkley took a feed from Josh Nelson and whipped a shot up high and in for the game winner.

“After the second period I think the guys all rallied together,” explained Dunkley after the game. “It just shows the heart we have in the locker room that even without big guns (like Evan Bouchard and Adam Boqvist) that we can all rally together and get the job done.”

Dunkley tied the game 4-4 on a similar play just past the halfway mark of the third period for the first of his two goals on the night.

Tonio Stranges had a pair of assists playing on a line with fellow 16-year-olds Luke Evangelista and Sahil Panwar.

“It was a fun line to watch,” said Steadman. “They got a huge goal for us early and it’s great to see them coming along.”

London is now unbeaten in regulation in their last seven games. They have just one regulation loss dating back to October 19 — a span of 26 games.

Both teams were missing some key players, either injured, returning from the World Junior Hockey Championship or still at the World Juniors.

The Knights played without Bouchard, Boqvist and Alex Formenton.

Niagara was missing players like Jason Robertson, who is with Team USA; Ivan Lodnia, who was out with an injury; and the suspended Johnathon Schaefer.

How the goals were scored

Matvey Guskov made a happy return to the London lineup after missing time for the World Junior A Challenge and with an injury. He knocked down a puck in the high slot, spun and fired it past Niagara goalie Stephen Dhillion for a 1-0 lead just 1:59 into the game.

The 16-year-old line of Stranges, Evangelista and Panwar accounted for the second goal. Evangelista chased Ice Dogs defenceman Jacob Paquette into his zone and forced him to flip the puck up the boards. It was knocked down by Stranges and he fed a pass to a wide-open Panwar at the side of the net. Panwar scored his third goal of the season to put London up 2-0 through 20 minutes.

Niagara came out and grabbed some momentum early in the second period on a power-play goal by Kirill Maksimov to cut the Knights’ lead in half.

Just 57 seconds later, Ben Jones tied the game as he batted a puck that bounced off a leg past Joseph Raaymakers to make it 2-2.

Akil Thomas finished a slick passing play on a Niagara power play at 10:31 of the second period to give the Ice Dogs the lead. He converted a Philip Tomasino feed in front after Maksimov found Tomasino at the side of the net.

Jones scored his second of the game on a penalty shot that was granted to Niagara after it was ruled that Riley Coome of London covered the puck with his hand in the crease as he dived back toward his net to try to break up a pass and the Ice Dogs carried a 4-2 lead into the third.

The Knights charged out in the third period and Cole Tymkin brought them to within a goal when he scored his 16th of the season on a power play at the 4:20 mark.

Dunkley tied the game at 12:50 of the third as he crisscrossed with Connor McMichael at the Niagara blue line and snapped a shot over the blocker of Dhillon and in.

Dunkley gave the ‘Dogs a little deja-vu in overtime as he wristed a shot into the same spot from the right side of the Ice Dogs’ end for the game winner.

London Knights Hall of Fame

The Knights announced on January 2 that they have created a Hall of Fame to honour players who have played with distinction for the franchise. The first class will be enshrined on January 8 and will feature Walt McKechnie, Dennis Maruk, Dave Lowry, Tim Taylor, Chris Taylor and Rob Schremp. There will be a special ceremony before the game to honour all six players. Fans who plan to attend are asked to be in their seats early to avoid missing any of it.

McLeod goes back to Michigan

Ryan McLeod was selected third overall in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection. He wound up being traded to Mississauga before he played a game for the Firebirds, but his OHL career has gone nearly full circle. McLeod is headed back to Michigan as a member of the Saginaw Spirit after a deal that saw Saginaw send two second-round picks (one conditional), three third-round picks and defenceman Duncan Penman to the Steelheads.

The Ontario Hockey League trade deadlines are now less than a week away. Overage players must be moved by January 9. The deadline to trade all other players is January 10.

Gogolov stopped

Pavel Gogolev was off to an excellent start as a member of the Guelph Storm after coming over from the Peterborough Petes in a trade for Ryan Merkley. The Moscow native had eight points in his first four games as a member of the Storm and was helping them to put up win after win. On Wednesday in Owen Sound, that hot streak was iced when Gogolev suffered a fractured ankle in a game against the Attack. Word is he will be able to return this year but is expected to miss approximately eight weeks. Guelph is already missing forward Cam Hillis and defenceman Jack Hanley for extended periods of time. The Storm will visit the Knights on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens.

Up next

The Knights will go from facing the second-best team in the east to facing the second-best team in the west. London will host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Budweiser Gardens. The Greyhounds tore up the OHL in 2017-18, losing just seven times in regulation. While they were beaten by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL Championship series, they still produced one of the best seasons ever in league history. Quite often a team in that position will face a tough year the next season because of graduation. The Greyhounds have gone 22-9-4-1 through their first 36 games. They have been very good. They have even gone 3-1 without top players Morgan Frost and Barrett Hayton, who have been with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.

Coverage will start at 6:30 p.m. on Friday on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.

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