The London Knights (28-7-2-3) scored a late third period goal to snatch a 4-3 victory from the Saginaw Spirit (15-19-5-2) despite Saginaw's valiant effort to erase a 2-goal deficit earlier in the period in Mitchell Stephens' first game at the Dow Event Center since his trade to London earlier in the week.
With the game tied at 3-goals apiece late in the third period the Spirit defense had trouble clearing the puck out of its zone -due in large part to London's relentless forechecking attack- which led to a turnover as London forward Cliff Pu passed it to Alex Formenton in the high slot, who then found Dante Salituro (2) for what turned out to be the game wining goal at 15:22 of the final period.
Early on, it looked like it was going to be another lop-sided game, similar to last night in London, when Stephens and J.J. Piccinich found Sam Miletic (22) for his twenty second goal of the season to give the Knights an early 1-0 lead at the 4:06 mark of the opening period.
The Spirit would answer when Brady Gilmour (14) scored his fourteenth goal of the season with the lone assist coming from Cole Coskey to tie the game at a goal apiece at the 8:46 mark of the first period.
The Spirit caught, what appeared to be, a bit of a break when London forward Adrian Carbonara was called for a 2-minute cross-checking penalty at 14:09 of the second period.
However, it was the Knights' who would benefit from the penalty when Pu created a turnover along the boards in front of the Saginaw bench and raced the length of the ice for a shorthanded goal at 15:05 of the period, giving his team a 2-1 lead.
London defenseman Evan Bouchard (3) extended the Knights' lead early in the second period with his third goal of the season from Robert Thomas and Piccinich just 61-seconds into the second period for a 3-1 lead at the 1:01 mark of the middle frame.
The Spirit would mount a comeback when Hayden Hodgson (21) beat London goal tender, Jordan Kooy for his twenty-first goal of the season with assists from Jesse Barwell and Matthew Kreis to make it a one-goal game (3-2) at 15:46 of the third period.
Kreis (5) tied the game at 3 goals apiece with his fifth of the season from Hodgson and Jesse Barwell at 18:21 of the third period for the final Spirit goal before Salituro's go ahead goal.
The Spirit now trail the Flint Firebirds by 7-points for the eighth and final western conference playoff spot and will hit the road for 4-games starting with a 2:05 pm game at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, ON against the Spitfires tomorrow afternoon.
Next week, the Spirit have an opportunity to string together some road wins as it travels to three of the lower teams in the eastern conference; stopping first at the Barrie Molson Centre to take on the last place Barrie Colts (12-24-3-1) on Thursday night.
The Spirit then hit the Sudbury Community Arena to play the sixth place Sudbury Wolves (18-19-5-0) Friday night before rounding out the trip at North Bay Memorial Gardens for a meeting with the ninth place North Bay Battalion (16-22-3-0) Sunday afternoon. The Spirit will return home to host the Hamilton Bulldogs on Thur. Jan. 26, at the Dow Event Center.