The London Knights have two players with big league experience and two others who are NHL first-rounders.
But when the shootout rolled around, coach Dale Hunter turned to rookie Antonio Stranges right away.
For the second straight week, the 16-year-old scored the deciding goal, this time in a 2-1 victory over Sudbury before 9,036 Friday at Budweiser Gardens that was London’s fifth straight win.
“Out of all the players he could have picked, he picked me as a rookie,” Stranges said. “It’s an honour to do it.”
There aren’t that many shootouts any more. Most games are decided in 3-on-3 overtime.
But when you get a goaltending duel like Sudbury’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and London’s Joseph Raaymakers provided, it could happen.
And then, it’s Stranges time.
“I switched it up a little bit (from last week’s goal in Owen Sound),” Stranges said of his backhand winner to the glove side. “Coach Dale told me I had to get him to go down. I did that and ended up putting it in.”
Luukkonen made 40 saves, including a Liam Foudy penalty shot in overtime, and shut down Alex Formenton and Evan Bouchard on their shootout chances.
Raaymakers stopped all three Wolves attempts for his third straight victory. He has only allowed three goals in that span.
“It’s exciting playing against a guy like that,” the over-ager said of the 6-foot-5 Finn at the other end. “He’s a highly touted prospect (of the Sabres). But you have to focus on your job and not worry about what he’s doing. The shootout is just a matter of being patient. Wait for them to make the first move and then try to cover the bottom of the net.”
WILY DECISION: After Foudy hustled to draw the penalty shot near the end of a long overtime shift, Dale Hunter asked to use his timeout. He wanted to get his shooter a little extra breather before the attempt and a chance to clear his head.
The unique request was granted.
There is a little freeze-the-goaltender and get him thinking while he waits element to it too.
“When you think of it, it’s still part of the game,” Wolves coach Cory Stillman said. “They hadn’t burnt their timeout. You should be able to use it whenever you want. It was a way to give his guy a breather and maybe a little like calling a timeout on a kicker (in football) to put pressure on him.”
Foudy ended up getting stopped anyway.
TOP DOG: The Knights are confident in alternating their goaltenders at the moment. The Wolves, though, like to lean on Luukkonen – and for good reason.
“He’s a great goaltender,” Stillman said. “You saw what you can get out of him. We feel we can win every night with him in there. We have him and he’s going to play as much as he can. We’re pleased. We came back and tied in the third. Our guys won’t stop. To come in and tie here with a very good team getting their players back is an accomplishment.”
STEPPING UP: Last season Foudy was added to the top prospects game as an injury replacement. He returned to London among the most dangerous offensive players in the OHL and had an eye-opening second half that led to a first-round NHL selection.
The hope is his experience with the Canada-Russia Series this week will have a similar impact.
“Usually it’s a big honour to play in those games,” said the Knights forward, who suited up in Team OHL’s 3-1 victory Thursday in Sarnia. “It shows your skill and hard work has paid off to make an all-star team, you’d almost say.”
Foudy is in the midst of four games in five days. He played Friday against Sudbury and has a Sunday afternoon date with Kitchener on deck before rejoining Team OHL for Monday’s tilt in Oshawa.
Being invited to both games usually means Hockey Canada’s scouts want to take an extra look at him before their world junior selection camp next month.
“They watch you all year, but these two games are big for them,” Foudy said. “Getting invited to the camp would be pretty cool. It would be a big confidence booster and it’s every kid’s dream to play for Team Canada.”
Foudy possesses the same sort of speed that made linemate Formenton, who will also play in Monday’s contest, a valuable member of the reigning world junior gold-medal team at age 18.
“Every time Liam has played international hockey, he’s always done really well,” London associate GM Rob Simpson said. “He seems to score. He brings speed. He can also play top line, second, third. You can do multiple things. When the speed is there, they’re an asset. Most times in small tournaments, it’s nice to have players like that. Injuries happen and if a player like him gets hot, you can bump them up (in the lineup). I’d like to see them get a chance to showcase what he can do.”
Since Formenton’s return, Knights coach Dale Hunter has matched him on a line with Foudy, along with penalty killing duty together. There is a lot of offensive potential with the twin turbos.
“It’s tough for teams to defend having two pretty fast guys on the same line,” Foudy said. “It brings a lot of room to everyone else there. I’m trying to find my groove. I missed a few games with injury early and it set me back. But we’re winning games and that’s all that matters.”
BOQVIST BACK: With Adam Boqvist’s return from injury, Hunter paired the 18-year-old Swede with over-ager William Lochead early while keeping Evan Bouchard with Alec Regula, his partner from last year.
“It’s nice to have everyone back and see what it looks like and what we need to do,” Simpson said. “Alec and Evan had such a good chemistry and Alec showed he could play on his left side. For now that’s something we’re going to keep.”
The Knights are encouraging Boqvist to continue jumping into the play, but are trying to limit to those opportunities where it creates an odd-man rush.
“There has to be a level of freedom to his game,” Simpson said. “At the same point, you have to teach him when those reads are and they’re not on every shift. You don’t want to create a 3-on-3 and sacrifice the defensive side. If you can create numbers, go ahead and jump. Pick the right times to do that.
“We say that to all our defencemen.”
The Blackhawks first rounder missed the previous four games because of injury.
AROUND THE RINK: The Knights power play had two chances to win the game in the third, but couldn’t convert. They went 1-for-6 with the man advantage and that continues to be an issue. The penalty kill was great again, though . . . Lochead and pesky Drake Pilon engaged in a spirited tilt. The Knights d-man got the upper hand, then both jawed at each other in the box and back on the ice again . . . Cole Tymkin was named the Knights player of the month for October . . . Sophomore d-man Andrew Perrott served the final of his two-game suspension for being the aggressor in a fight in Owen Sound . . . London first-rounder Luke Evangelista and assistant coach Dylan Hunter travel back from the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge Sunday. They aren’t expected back in time to participate in the game against Kitchener. Their Canada White team was knocked out of gold-medal contention in a quarterfinal loss . . . Bouchard and Foudy had to report to Sarnia for the Canada-Russia game Wednesday so they missed two valuable days of practice this week . . . The Knights have early plans to start Jordan Kooy against Kitchener Sunday, even though Raaymakers shut out the Rangers last week. “We feel comfortable with either,” Simpson said. “Joe’s come on after a slow start, numbers-wise anyway, and Jordan’s been great all year. We feel we can put either one in there and have success. The best part is the team feels that confidence too.” . . . With Matthew Villalta out a few weeks with a freak leg laceration, the Soo Greyhounds added goaltender Mario Peccia from Oshawa for a 12th round pick in 2021. As a rookie, Peccia shut out London at the Bud while with Kingston. Ex-Knights goaltender Tyler Johnson, who started the season with the Hounds, is now with the Lincoln Stars in the United States Hockey League.
Knights 2, Wolves 1
London wins shootout 1-0
London goal: Connor McMichael
Sudbury goal: Blake Murray
Next: London faces Kitchener Sunday, 2 p.m. at Budweiser Gardens.
At Budweiser Gardens
Knights 2, Wolves 1
(London wins shootout 1-0)
1. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, Wolves
2. Joseph Raaymakers, Knights
3. Connor McMichael, Knights
1. London, McMichael 11 (Timms) 17:48 (pp)
Ripped it far side
Penalties – Bouchard, Ldn (roughing) 4:41, Phillips, Sby (roughing) 14:16, McConville, Sby (slashing) 15:50.
Penalties – Moskal, Ldn (holding) 1:29, Drake Pilon, Sby (roughing) 5:53
2. Sudbury, Murray 5 (Robinson, Nizhnikov) 11:26
Nifty pass and finish
Penalties – Drake Pilon, Sby, Lochead, Ldn (fighting) 0:14, Candella, Sby (blindside hit) 1:32, Dunkley, Ldn (hooking) 3:54, Candella, Sby (delay of game) 12:22, Drake Pilon, Sby (goaltender interference) 14:54.
Missed penalty shot – Foudy, Ldn 4:37
Penalties – None.
Sudbury: Levin stopped. Nizhnikov stopped. Bulitka stopped.
London: Stranges scored. Formenton stopped. Bouchard stopped.
Shots on goal by
Sudbury 6 11 7 2—26
London 11 11 15 4—41
Goal: Sudbury: Luukkonen (L, 8-5). London: Raaymakers (W, 5-5).
Power plays (goals-chances): Sby 0-3. Ldn 1-6.
Referees – Ryan Harrison, Ben Wilson. Linesmen – Brad Horan, Mike Harrington.
Attendance: 9,036 (9,036).
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