It was a measuring stick-game and the 67’s measured up just fine against the high-flying London Knights in a 3-2 shootout victory at the Urbandale Centre Sunday.
Cody Lindsay was the only scorer in the shootout, beating Knights goaltender Michael Hutchinson with a nice deke and backhander through the five-hole in front of 6,942.
Lindsay, who also set up Anthony Nigro for the equalizer, helped Ottawa (22-17-4-3) beat the Knights (31-11-0-2)) for only the second time in five seasons — a span of 12 games.
The win spoiled the Knights’ perfect record (25-0-0-0) when leading after two periods this season.
But all the talk centred around a huge hit by big 67’s winger Corey Cowick on Knights winger Daniel Erlich early in the third period.
The pint-sized Erlich, listed at 5-foot-6 and 165 lbs., bobbled an outlet pass and was fishing for the puck in his skates when he was drilled by the 6-foot 2, 205-lb. Cowick.
Erlich was dazed, but managed to finish the game.
Knights coach Dale Hunter was livid that no penalty was called, then furious when Nigro tied it on a power play after London winger Chris DeSousa took a four-minute roughing penalty in retaliation for the Cowick hit.
“Kids get really hurt that way and we don’t want to see anybody get hurt,” said Hunter. “(Erlich) was in a vulnerable position and you’re not supposed to hit somebody (in that position) ... (It) definitely was a head hit and you’re not allowed to do that anymore.”
Ottawa coach Chris Byrne defended Cowick, saying the size mismatch was more to blame than anything else.
“It’s tough when you’re up against a smaller guy like that,” said Byrne. “(Cowick) could have really gone harder at him. It looked like he really could have followed through.”
Cowick said there was no malice on his part.
“He was kind of looking back and I wasn’t really skating too hard, I had my feet on the ice and just followed through on the hit,” he said. “It may have looked bad because he’s not as tall as I am, so I think (the Knights) were asking for a head hit, but I tried my best, kept my elbows down and I think it was a pretty clean hit.”
Cowick also called the hit a turning point.
“That hit changed the complexion of the game a little bit, they took a four-minute penalty, we scored right after, and we started dominating the play after that.”
Julian Demers opened the scoring for the 67’s three minutes into the second on a 5-on-3 power play with a wrist shot that found its way through Hutchinson.
Knights star Nazem Kadri tied it on a nice individual rush, picking up his own rebound and skating it out to the blue line, where he fended off Lindsay — Kadri’s shadow — and wired a shot through a screen that beat 67’s goalie Petr Mrazek.
Michael MacDonald gave the Knights a 2-1 lead five minutes later, finding the loose puck in a scrum in the slot and backhanding into the net.
“They did their job,” said Kadri. “They played hard and it’s always a good battle when you come to Ottawa.”
Kadri had some fun in the pregame warmup, jawing with London natives Lindsay and Travis Gibbons of the 67's. “It wasn’t too much trash talking out there,” Kadri said with a laugh. “We’re long-time friends. I’ve known those guys since I was five years old and they’re great friends of mine.”