Knights snap home skid

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

Leave it to a native Londoner to finally get the Knights back on a winning track at the John Labatt Centre.

Veteran defenceman Scott Aarssen, known more for his defence than his offensive talent, scored two power-play goals -- including the winning blast with 3:40 left in the third period -- as the Knights snapped a five-game home losing skid with a 6-5 victory over the Sarnia Sting before 9,000 yesterday at the JLC.

A day after scoring just once in the opener of the fifth annual New Year's home-and-home set in Sarnia, the undermanned Knights exploded for their first win on friendly ice in a month, dating to a 5-3 victory over Owen Sound on Dec. 1.

"It's nice to get the chance to be a little more offensive," Aarssen said. "With our power-play guys (Pat Kane, Sam Gagner, Sergei Kostitsyn) gone to the world junior tournament, I was told I would get some time on the point on the power play. Robbie Drummond and I were moving the puck around pretty good out there. I'm usually a pass guy, but I was looking to shoot there.

"I was looking for holes, but the first thing you try to do is get it past the first forward's shin pads."

The Sting are surely sick of Aarssen by now. The 18-year-old former London Junior Knight and St. Thomas Star has three of his four OHL regular-season goals against Sarnia. His first career tally was a dramatic overtime winner in Sarnia last year and his first goal yesterday was his first this season.

"We got scoring from a lot of different perspectives and that's what we needed," he said. "We were up (5-2 in the second period), but we got a little too comfortable and let them tie. At the intermission, we talked about really going hard in the third period and trying to come out of the weekend with a positive.

"It was a total team effort."

Sting forward Justin DiBenedetto, who scored the game-winner Sunday, had a chance to give his team the late lead when he pounced on a loose puck to the right of the London cage. He had an open net, but hit the post.

"I was at the side of the net and just tried to shoot as quickly as I could and put it off the post," he said. "If it was over a little bit more, it was in. It was lucky (for London). We fought back hard with the three straight goals, but we didn't catch any breaks. We beat them on (Sunday) and we're right with them in this one, so we know we can play with them."

With its top three scorers overseas, London relied on big goals from Aarssen, Matt Clarke, Jordan Shine and Andrew Wilkins -- a foursome that had combined for three goals this season heading into the contest.

Clarke's effort chased Sarnia starting goalie Parker Van Buskirk in the second period. Wilkins' goal, a short-handed breakaway effort that rated as one of the more electrifying Knights' goals this season, came after a nice tip-pass at his own blue-line by Jordan Foreman.

"I was just yelling at Jordan to get the puck out because we were both exhausted from killing the penalty and all of a sudden, I'm on a breakaway," Wilkins said with a grin.

"This was a big win for us. It was the first time in the (four-year) history of the JLC that we had lost five in a row. No one had been through anything like that before so it was on everyone's minds that we had to come out and end that kind of streak."

Captain Drummond dropped back to the blue-line as the Knights continue to devise different looks for their starting six defencemen. Sarnia forward Trevor Kell, who performed that role last year for London, scored and added an assist yesterday to give him seven points in five games against his former team.

Kell, 20, said he felt better about playing in London this time than he did in his first visit here Oct 27.

"My first game back here, there was the pregame ceremony (that honoured him for his service with the Knights) and I wasn't comfortable in Sarnia yet," he said. "Now, it's different. Our plan is definitely to fly under the radar and surprise some teams in the playoffs. We know we have a good team and if we don't finish first, it doesn't matter. We're going to be in there battling."

It was a big lift for the Sting to beat the Knights 2-1 on Sunday in Sarnia but they still haven't won at the JLC in two tries this season.

"When I played for London, teams looked at what the Knights had done in the past and were intimidated," Kell said. "But we're not intimidated. We know we can beat them."

GAME GLANCE

Knights 6, Sting 5

London goals: Scott Aarssen (2), Adam Perry, Jordan Shine, Andrew Wilkins, Matt Clarke

Sarnia goals: Harrison Reed (2), Trevor Kell, Chris Mifflen, Justin DiBenedetto

Next: On Thursday, London returns to Peterborough, where the Knights' season ended in an OHL final sweep by the Petes last May.


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