It was the Knights-Otters game we’ve been waiting all year for, and it didn’t disappoint. The two top teams in the West battled it out until the Knights were able to walk away with a 4-3 win.
The game was a crucial one in deciding who would end up as the number one seed in the Western Conference, as Erie needed only a regulation win to secure the top spot. London had other ideas however, as a strong performance from Max Jones seized the day.
Erie came flying out of the gates, getting a power play in the early parts of the game. Five seconds of power play time was all Alex DeBrincat needed to rip a shot past Tyler Parsons, giving Erie an early 1-0 lead. London was able to even it back up at one just before the end of the first period, as Jones was able to tip in a JJ Piccinich shot in the dying seconds.
The second period started in eerily similar fashion, as Brett Neumann scored three minutes into the frame. While the chances were even for the rest of the game, it was only London that would be able to convert. First it was Matt Tkachuk scoring his 30th of the year, followed by fellow American Max Jones wiring a wrister past Devin Williams for his second of the game. The Mitch Marner/Christian Dvorak show gave the Sportsnet crew a highlight that will surely be replayed over and over, with Marner making a beautiful dish to Dvorak for the goal.
The period ended with a candidate for fight of the year between Chad Heffernan and Jake Marchment, with both players throwing hay-makers. While Heffernan left the ice gesturing that he had won “the belt”, so to speak, it was a very even tilt. London would head to the locker room with a 4-2 lead.
The chippy play continued into the third, as Dylan Strome two-handed London’s pesky Owen MacDonald, who had been pestering Strome and DeBrincat all game. MacDonald got away with a very dangerous looking hit on Haydn Hopkins later in the period.
With the goalie pulled, Kyle Petit scored with about 20 seconds left to provide Erie a glimmer of hope, but it was too little, too late, as London would walk away with a 4-3 win.
The two teams will be right back at it again tonight, with London heading to Erie, winner takes the West. Whoever wins the game will get home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, assuming they keep winning of course. For those who are able to see the game, keep an eye on the feuds between Canadian WJC teammates Marner and Travis Dermott, as well as the ongoing feud of MacDonald versus everyone, in a game that could be a preview of an intense playoff series.