Knights work out of funk

RYAN PYETTE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:26 AM ET

You knew the London Knights wouldn’t end their long losing funk in a conventional way.

Nope, they needed a refereeing controversy, last-minute heroics and a high-scoring shootout to escape with a much-needed 4-3 win over the exasperated Kingston Frontenacs before 8,902 Sunday at the John Labatt Centre.

London forward Jared Knight backhand tipped home the tying goal with 30.5 seconds left in the third period, then sparked a shootout where seven of 10 shooters scored — capped by Knight defenceman Michael D’Orazio’s winner — in a wild victory the Fronts thought they already had in the bag.

“A gutsy win against (an almost) first-place team is exactly what we needed in here,” D’Orazio said. “Knighter’s goal was huge. We worked till the end. We listened to the coaches. I can’t say enough about the character in the room.”

Or all the relief over a critically lucky break. Kingston defenceman Jeff Braithwaite scored what would’ve given his team a 4-2 lead with two minutes left in the third, but the goal was disallowed after Fronts forward Ryan Davidson, a London native, barrelled into Knights goalie Michael Houser.

The Frontenacs thought London defenceman Reid McNeill shoved Davidson into the goalie.

“They called it a goal on the ice first,” Braithwaite said. “Then, they waved it off without explanation. We’re disappointed because they should’ve at least got together and reviewed it first. I’ve never seen goalie interference called and no penalty on it.

“It’s a tough way to lose.”

Davidson’s take?

“I went hard to the net and he (McNeill) went hard trying to stop me,” the former St. Marys Lincoln said. “There’s really nothing much else to say. London didn’t give up. Hopefully, next time, we get the W.”

The Knights, ever the opportunists, thought they should’ve been granted another in a long line of power plays on the Davidson bump.

“They said Housie couldn’t play the puck, that’s why they waved it off,” Knight said. “He (Davidson) ran into him hard. I got a goalie interference call earlier in the game it wasn’t half of what he did.

“We didn’t get off to a good start (the Knights trailed 16 seconds in and 3-0 in the first period) but we never stopped working. The room’s buzzing in there. We needed this in a big way after losing our last two this weekend.”

No Knights team in the last eight years needed a victory this badly. The message was sent before the game with six-goal forward Michael MacDonald shipped to Sudbury for a second round pick and a conditional one if he plays an overage year for the Wolves.

“This is a cut-throat business,” D’Orazio said. “Definitely (it’s a message). I was kind of expecting something to happen. Losing here isn’t an option.”

More and more lately, the Knights have turned to their impressive-looking younger kids. Ryan Rupert scored his first OHL goal, his twin Matt and defenceman Kevin Raine all got into the lineup (Jarred Tinordi’s knee might keep him out the next two weeks).

Is that a sign of a rebuild coming here for the team that supposedly never does?

Well, not yet.

“I don’t know how many more changes we’re going to make,” GM Mark Hunter said. “I think people know by now how we operate this organization for the present and the future. Our goal always is to win the Memorial Cup.

“We’re a better team than we’ve shown lately, but we have to play better if we want to do damage in the playoffs. If you don’t play better, you’re not (going to make the playoffs). That’s the bottom line. Mike MacDonald’s a good player (25 goals last year) but we made the trade and with the picks I’m back to normal (for the draft).”

Don’t let the one move fool you. The Knights are still on the hunt for a No. 1 centre. It’s too much to ask Chris DeSousa, who was given a rare misconduct during the shootout, to check the top line every game and score 30 goals, too.

It’s been a particularly rough weekend — and year with all the funerals he’s had to attend — for Kingston coach Doug Gilmour, but he remained calm on the bench after the disallowed goal, the Knights’ tying tally.

His old Leafs coach, the late Pat Burns, would’ve likely blew a gasket.

“Everyone has their own style,” Gilmour said. “I’m not a screamer or a yeller.”

He’ll be heading next week to Quebec to pay his final respects to Burns, who passed away Friday after a lengthy battle with cancer.

“The funeral’s next Monday,” Gilmour said. “It’s American Thanksgiving this week so his wife wanted to wait until after that. I was lucky enough to be in Sherbrooke for the dedication of his arena and I was happy to spend some time with him.

“This year, I had my good friend (and marketer) Bob Lavelle pass away, then Probie (Bob Probert), and now Pat.”

ryan.pyette@sunmedia.ca

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Game glance

Knights 4, Frontenacs 3 (SO)

London wins shootout 4-3

London goals: Ryan Rupert, Tyler Brown, Jared Knight

Kingston goals: Ryan Spooner, Erik Gudbranson, Nathan Moon

Next: The Knights face Plymouth on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the John Labatt Centre.


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