Well this was unexpected.
The London Knights find themselves up three-games to none against the CHL’s best Erie Otters after claiming game 3 on home ice by a score of 5-to-1.
With both teams having finished neck and neck in the regular season – this Western Conference Final had all the makings of an epic showdown between two of the biggest powerhouses in Canadian junior hockey.
So far though, that expectation has been quashed by three very one sided games where the Otters have fallen flat.
For Erie – game 1’s 7-4 result was a slip, game 2’s 6-1 gaffe was a shock – and in game 3 while every statistical category would indicate a fairly even match up – the Knights capitalized offensively while the Otters fizzled at basically every big opportunity that came their way.
Tyler Parsons shut the door for London – stopping every shot that came his way save for a goal that bounced off an Otter skate.
Erie Forward and Assistant Captain Jake Marchment scored the lone Otter goal on a 2-on-1 shorthanded opportunity early in the third that ricocheted of his skate and past a sprawling Parsons.
After the game, Marchment discussed cleaning the slate.
“I know it’s hard to come back from 3-o but teams have done it before,” he said optimistically after being asked how he expects his team to climb out of the hole.
“I think the turnaround will be good for us with the back-to-back,” he explained. “We’ll get to put this one behind us quick and come back to the Bud tomorrow, fresh minds, fresh legs and we’re just looking for a win.”
London used a three goal second to put the game out of reach with Mitch Marner leading the way on offense with two goals along with a pair of helpers.
Christian Dvorak and Matt Tkachuk each tallied goals as the Knights top line continued its lethal scoring pace. Owen MacDonald also potted his first of the playoffs which turned out to be the eventual winner.
Marner, who currently leads the OHL in playoff scoring – tipped his hat to the rugged play of his third line of MacDonald, J.J. Piccinich and Chandler Yakimowicz – who did a phenomenal job creating chances and limiting Otter opportunities.
“They’ve been great,” said Marner. “From a player’s point of view they’ve helped a lot. They’re playing against the best lines on every team and they’re really working hard and grinding down low and you see it there tonight. They’re top notch right now.”
Marner didn’t stop there either – pointing to the third lines aggressive two-way game and how it’s been a benefit to the teams overall depth.
“They’re creating a lot of offensive chances while playing against top lines and as a top line player that gets under your skin a little bit and they’re all playing really well right now so I don’t see them getting any worse.”
After outscoring Erie 18-to-6 through three games, momentum is clearly in London’s favour and with one more ‘McDavid’ like performance against the Otters – Marner can punch his teams ticket to the OHL final – where they’ll face either Niagara or Barrie.
In either scenario – facing the Ice Dogs or Colts would mean a rematch of London’s past two OHL championship titles but with Niagara also up 3-nothing in that series – it’s more likely to be a rematch of the 2011-12 finale.
With the Wayne Gretzky Trophy in the Gardens this evening – Knights fans will be abuzz with anticipation and busting out the brooms as London has a chance to head to the big dance for the first time since the 2012/13 season.