Knight's Night: Knights slowly, but surely getting back on track
Credit: ANDREW STEPHENSON OF SHAKE MEDIA AND THE LONDON KNIGHTS
After a disappointing start to the season, things are looking up for the London Knights.
After eight straight losses between Sept. 24 and Oct. 15, in which London scored just 13 goals, the team picked up two victories against two tough opponents last weekend.
To win games, you need to score goals. No one knows that better than the Knights, who came into the weekend with a league worst 18 goals for.
That all changed on Oct. 20 and 22.
London exploded for ten goals against the Kitchener Rangers and Mississauga Steelheads, en route to consecutive victories.
I stressed last week how important it was for London’s big players to step up and be their best and they were last weekend.
Max Jones led the way for London at the Memorial Auditorium in Kitchener, scoring three goals in a 5-1 shellacking of the Rangers.
Robert Thomas scored twice, while Cliff Pu picked up two helpers.
The goaltending was also a huge factor, and there’s a new starting one in London.
If you haven’t heard the name Joseph Raaymakers before, you should get used to it.
The Knights acquired the veteran goaltender from the Sault. Ste. Marie Greyhounds for fellow netminder Tyler Johnson, two second-round picks, and a fourth-round pick if the 19-year-old plays a game in his overage season.
Raaymakers, a Chatham native, is in his fourth OHL campaign. He hadn’t played a game for the Greyhounds this season when traded, after refusing to report to training camp.
Raaymakers was huge for the Knights in his first game donning the green and gold, making 35 of 36 saves in the win over Kitchener.
He will be a welcome addition to the team after the departure of Tyler Parsons to the Kansas City Mavericks of the ECHL.
It was much of the same for the Knights, and Raaymakers, two days later.
London used five different goal scorers to beat the Mississauga Steelheads 5-2 at the Hershey Centre.
Thomas, Jones, Evan Bouchard, Liam Foudy and Sam Militec all lit the lamp.
Raaymakers was great again, letting in just two goals, while making 26 saves.
Alex Formenton also picked up two assists in his first two games back from Ottawa.
For the first time in over a month, there’s excitement surrounding the London Knights again.
Though the two wins didn’t jump them any places in the standings, they now sit just eight points behind Kitchener for second place in the Western Conference, with a game in hand.
Besides the two important wins, there was more good news coming out of London this weekend.
Team OHL’s roster was set last week for the CIBC Canada Russia Series, and four Knights made the cut.
Evan Bouchard, Cliff Pu, Alex Formenton and Robert Thomas will all be suiting up against Team Russia on Nov. 9 in Owen Sound.
Bouchard, Pu and Formenton will also play Nov. 13 in Sudbury.
In 14 years of competition against the Russian National Junior Team, the OHL has a record of 23-4-1.
So, things are starting to look up for the London Knights. Their top players are producing, the new goaltending is solid, and the wins are coming.
Now it’s up to the team to make sure that keeps happening.
They’ll have plenty of chances to do that with three games in three days this weekend.
They’re home to the Flint Firebirds on Oct. 27, before travelling to Hamilton and Guelph to play the Bulldogs and Storm the next two days.