Houser wins game, verbal war

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Off the ice, Michael Houser and Brett Thompson both seem like quiet, reserved gentlemen.

But on it together?

Trash talk.

Showmanship.

The London Knights goalie and Soo Greyhounds top scorer engaged in an epic, game-long verbal joust.

Thompson had Houser's ear early.

He buried a quick shorthanded goal.

"They scored one, and he was letting me know about it," Houser said. "He was talking.

All game, it was like that."

Houser, though, had the last laugh.

His Knights roared back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and beat Thompson's Hounds 6-5 in a six-round shootout before 8,980 last night at the John Labatt Centre.

Houser stopped Thompson on a penalty shot in the second period.

Then, he batted the airborne puck into the netting above the glass.

Soo coach Denny Lambert wanted a penalty.

"I asked the ref about it -- was it a two or a 10-minute misconduct for knocking it out," he said, "and he told me he was just following through on it (after the save)."

Thompson later took a swipe at Houser with his stick in front of the net. More jawing.

"I think I rattled him after stopping him on the penalty shot," the 17-year-old Houser said.

Of course, Thompson went first in the shootout.

Houser beat him again.

"Everyone knows he's a good goaltender," Thompson said. "After the penalty shot, I thought I'd shoot it on him, but it just didn't work out.

"We worked hard and got a point that's hard to get in this building. We just sat back a little bit too much in the third."

It was the first shootout at the JLC this season.

But Houser had plenty of practice -- the Wexford, Penn., native lost a nine-rounder in Guelph on Nov. 1.

"That one didn't work out," he said, "but I learned from it. I had the experience. We didn't get a lot of bounces, but we came out strong in the third period.

"It was a good win. You can't worry about the guy in the other end."

Lehner was beaten just once in the shootout -- by speedy 19-year-old Knights rookie Stephen Sanza.

"I had a hundred things I wanted to do running through my head," Sanza said. "But at the last second, I just decided to go with what felt right. I made the first one, trying to get him to move.

"He's a big goalie."

Even bigger than the Maple Leafs Monster -- Jonas Gustafsson.

If he ends up a Senator some day, he'll have a lot of head-to-head battles with Leafs first-rounder Nazem Kadri in the NHL.

But the nifty Knight got him twice, including a pivotal goal 48 seconds into the third period for his 20th this season.

It cut the Soo lead to 4-3 and got London rolling.

The Knights were reeling after the first period. They had four power plays and got scored on twice with the man advantage.

But Kadri, the Canadian world junior camper, led the way back.

"Their goal at the end of the second (James Livingston's first of two) kind of sucked the life out of us for a bit," Kadri said, "but we needed a goal early and I'm expected to do that as a fourth-year guy.

"It was great to sweep the weekend (three wins in three games). It sets us up well with Kitchener coming here Friday night."

That will be a head-to-head tilt for first in the Midwest Division. The two teams are tied.

Kadri showed no ill-effects after he was cross-checked in Saginaw on Saturday, a play that started a major melee leading to Knights forward Michael MacDonald sitting the first of a two-game suspension last night for second fight in the same stoppage against the Spirit.

"I was kind of a mouthpiece that game," Kadri said, "but I knew it was coming off the draw. I heard their coach talking from the bench to his players to get me and it seemed like three guys came at me.

"But our group sticks up for each other."

"Nobody takes liberties with Naz," Knights forward Garett Hunter added. "He's one of the best players in the league."

He proved it to the Hounds and didn't have to say much.

The chirping was all Houser and Thompson's territory.

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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Knights 6, 'Hounds 5 (SO)

London goals: Nazem Kadri (2), Stephen Sanza, Daniel Erlich, Jared Knight

Soo goals: James Livingston (2), Brett Thompson, Carson Dubchak, Jordan Nolan

Next: The Knights play Kitchener Friday at the JLC at 7:30 p.m.

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