It isn’t often that a team’s penalty kill will be a key reason that they won a hockey game, but it was as the London Knights blew out the Kingston Frontenacs 8-1 on Oct. 13 at Budweiser Gardens.
London got short-handed goals from Easton Cowan, Denver Barkey and Kaeden Johnston and a nine-for-nine effort in killing off opposition penalties for the second game in a row.
The Knights have killed off 25 consecutive penalties dating back to Oct. 6.
Kasper Halttunen led the way offensively with two goals and an assist. Barkey had a pair of goals, Alec Leonard chipped in three assists, Jackson Edward had two assists and Jacob Julien and Easton Cowan had a goal and an assist apiece.
Normally the winning goaltender in an 8-1 game struggles to be noticed but Owen Willmore did for London. He ended the game with 35 saves for his first victory of the season.
The offence opened up early as the Knights went to the power play just 17 seconds into the game.
Just 26 seconds into the game, London opened the scoring as Denver Barkey lifted a puck over rookie Kingston goaltender J.J. Salajko to make it 1-0.
Kasper Halttunen put the Knights in front 2-0 as he poked a puck under Salajko at 4:59 of the opening period.
Easton Cowan scored for the second straight night to increase the London lead to 3-0 at 9:58 as he raced to a puck inside the Frontenacs’ blue line while killing a penalty and cut to the net by himself and beat Salajko with a snap shot to the stick side of Salajko.
Salajko is the son of Jeff Salajko who played for Mark Hunter in 1995-96 when Hunter coached the Sarnia Sting.
Cowan and Barkey combined for another short-handed goal early in the second period as Cowan fed Barkey for his second goal of the game and seventh point in his past three games.
A power play produced Halttunen’s second goal of the game at 13:14 of the second period as he banged in a Sam Dickinson rebound.
Leonard set up a goal before the end of the middle period on a pass that travelled almost 200 feet. Edward sent the puck down the ice from beside his own net and it bounced off the end boards right to Jacob Julien, who raced into the Kingston end behind everyone wearing a black and gold sweater.
Julien deked in front and slid his first goal of the season into the Kingston net to give London a 6-0 advantage heading into the final 20 minutes.
Christopher Thibodeau celebrated his 18th birthday with a third period goal for the Frontenacs.
Sam O’Reilly got that back with his third goal of the year just over one minute later and Kaeden Johnston ended the scoring with his second goal of the season with 2:08 left on the clock.
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Both Blake Arrowsmith and Sawyer Boulton made their Knights debuts against the Frontenacs.
Max McCue missed the game after being handed a three-game suspension for a checking from behind penalty he received on Oct. 12 in Peterborough.
Both Brody Crane and Juan Copeland of London each missed their second straight games due to illness.
Knights in the American Hockey League
The 2023-24 American Hockey League season kicked off on Friday and at the moment there are 15 former London Knights on AHL rosters. Two members of last year’s Knights squad will at least begin the year a in the American League as Ryan Winterton enjoys the sunshine in Coachella Valley, Calif., and Logan Mailloux plays for the Montreal Canadiens farm team in Laval, Que.
Tonio Stranges will begin this season with the Texas Stars. Stranges finished his OHL career with London in 2021-22.
The Knights will complete three games in three nights in Sarnia on Saturday, Oct. 14.
London and the Sting met in the playoffs last spring for the first time since 1999.
The Knights won the Western Conference final in six games. The series marked the first time in franchise history that the Sting had reached the final four.
Sarnia was hit hard by graduation but has been off to a good start in 2023-24.
Coverage will begin at 6:30 on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.
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