Taylor finds scoring touch

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

It's one of those deals that doesn't get the headlines bigger deals get.

But by the time Justin Taylor leaves the London Knights organization, the deal that brought him here will be classified as a steal.

Taylor scored his first goal as a Knight in Windsor yesterday, helping London to a 5-1 Ontario Hockey League win over the Spitfires.

Taylor, from London, was drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs in 2005 but never reported. He was playing with Wellington in the provincial junior A league when Knights general manager Mark Hunter got him for a 2008 fifth-round pick, even though he was considering going the scholarship route.

Since he came here, Taylor has been a complete hockey player, taking key faceoffs, killing penalties and finally scoring his first goal.

"It feels great," he said. "I thought I would have had one before now."

Taylor is one of those players who does whatever job is asked of him.

"When I was in Wellington, they wanted me to be a goal scorer, but I wanted to be a more complete player," he said.

Taylor is thrilled with how things have gone since he arrived six games ago. "I've gotten a lot more ice time than I thought I would get. The coaching staff has been great. If you do your job and work hard, you'll get the ice time."

He got plenty of it yesterday. The London coaching staff gave other young Knights who normally don't get a lot of playing time, players such as Kevin Bodker and Phil McRae, plenty of ice time as well, taking advantage of the fact the Spitfires got rid of most of their veteran players at the OHL trade deadline as they build for the future.

The Spitfires started only two 19-year-olds. No one else who started was older than 18.

On the excitement scale, the game barely registered. But the Spitfires deserve credit. They never quit, they outshot London 36-26 and Knights goalie Steve Mason had to be sharp or the game would have been much closer.

But it was a big day for another Londoner, Spitfire netminder Matt Hackett. Hackett is a nephew of former NHL netminder Jeff Hackett.

Hackett, who was just called up from the St. Thomas Stars of the Western Ontario Hockey League five days ago, got the word five minutes before the game began that he'd start in goal. It was his first OHL game. Scheduled starter Andrew Engelage injured a groin in warmup.

"I was scared, really nervous," Hackett said. "But it went away pretty quickly. You just go out there and do what you're supposed to do. I was told I might start next week, so I didn't expect this."

It didn't start well for Hackett. By the 14:31 mark of the first period it was 3-0 -- and the Knights had only fired six shots at him.

But the Spitfires gave up numerous odd-man rushes, getting trapped up ice.

Hackett couldn't be faulted for any of the goals, but for a 16-year-old, that kind of start could be disastrous.

"I thought, 'This is going to be a little rough,' " he said of the start. "But I focused on stopping the next shot and the next shot after that."

It worked, because he gave up only one more goal after that -- with the Knights' fifth goal going into an empty net.

"It's been kind of hectic this week but the players here have really helped me out, showing around the city and everything. It's been great," said Hackett.

Taylor's goal wound up being the winner. It was one of those odd-man rushes with Knights defenceman Kevin Montgomery finding Adam Perry, who turn slipped the puck to Taylor. Hackett had no chance as Taylor blasted the puck into the net.

"It's taken a little longer than I thought but I maybe now the next one will come quicker," Taylor said.


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