LONDON, ONT. - Anthony Stolarz put his shocked London Knights teammates – and all hockey fans – at ease with a message sent via Twitter from University Hospital Friday night.
The London Knights goaltender, who suffered a sickening cut to the back of his left leg 3:42 into a 3-1 loss to the Saginaw Spirit before 9,046 at Budweiser Gardens, typed, “Nothing too serious and I'll be looking to get right back on the (ice) as soon as I can.”
The incident happened when Saginaw captain Eric Locke's skate blade clipped Stolarz while jousting with London defenceman Dakota Mermis.
The Philadelphia Flyers' prospect writhed in pain on the ice and left a lot of blood in the blue paint in front of his net.
Stolarz was treated on the ice and removed by stretcher. The Knights offered no update after their third loss in the past four games.
“Right now, we don't have anything definite,” London assistant GM Rob Simpson said. “We'll have to wait and see.”
The Knights, who peppered Saginaw goalie Jake Paterson with 60 shots but could only score once, were relieved to hear any shred of positive news from Stolarz.
“Dougie (London physiotherapist Doug Stacey) did a great job jumping over there and getting it covered up,” forward Ryan Rupert said. “Everyone was pretty worried. Everyone was in shock. Especially the situation, cuts are always scary.
“It definitely takes a bit out of you and unfortunately, it took too much out of us. By the time we were done killing penalties in the first, it was too late to catch up.”
Jake Paterson, who lost 2-0 to Paterson last Saturday in Saginaw, came on in relief and stopped 26 of 28 shots. The Knights contacted London Nationals goaltender Justin Tugwell, who rushed to the rink and served as an emergency backup.
“I think it's hard for everyone to move on from that. It's a scary moment,” Patterson said of the Stolarz injury. “When you see blood on the ice like that, it's pretty scary. He's a huge part of this team. Hopefully, he's back. We'll go see him (Saturday) and see how he's doing.”
Patterson said the injury will have him and many other goalies considering wearing Kevlar socks.
“There's nothing back there (back of the leg) for protection and if wearing those socks prevent a few incidents like that, more guys should be wearing them,” he said. “Seeing that happen, it could have easily been me. There are a lot of scrums in fronf of the net.
“I definitely want to give (Kevlar) a try.”
Simpson said there are no guarantees it could have been prevented.
“The skates are getting so sharp,” Simpson said. “Anything for added protection (but) you look at the David Bolland cut (that put the ex-Knight out of the Maple Leafs' lineup). He was wearing a Kevlar sock when it happened so there's nothing that I know of that's 100 percent.”
The Knights felt Locke should have been penalized on the play leading up to the injury for goalie interference.
Five minutes after Stolarz left, defenceman Zach Bell took matters into his own hands by going after Locke. He was handed a fight instigator penalty and a game misconduct for being the aggressor.
The Knights managed to kill a seven-minute Spirit power play, but went 1-for-10 on their own chances with the man advantage, plus a missed first-period penalty shot by Ryan Rupert.
Rupert, tripped by Jimmy Lodge on a breakaway, was penalized for goalie interference, then pulled out of the box to take his attempt. He was stopped, then forced to serve his penalty.
“I have no idea why he (ef Garrett Rank) would call that,” Rupert said. “To go to a penalty shot unfocused like I was, throwing water bottles in the penalty box and expect to score, there was no way I could score with my head all (wound up) from that call.”
Paterson has faced 90 London shots over two gamesin the last week. He stopped all but one of them.
The Spirit remain a possible first-round playoff foe for London.
But right now, all thoughts are with Stolarz.
- - -
Spirit 3, Knights 1
Saginaw goals: Dylan Sadowy, Justin Kea, Eric Locke
London goal: Bo Horvat
Next: The Knights head to Mississauga Sunday, 2 p.m. at the Hershey Centre.