Heading into Game 4 of the Ontario Hockey League final, there are two questions surrounding the London Knights.
The first is if the top-seeded Knights can score the first goal of the game in the unfriendly and stuffy confines of the Gatorade Garden City Complex.
“The fans are pretty ruthless there,” London forward Jared Knight, 20, said of the ancient rink, “so to take the crowd out of it early is big.”
To date, Niagara has opened the scoring in every match of the highly contested final. Of course, since the Knights have a 2-1 series lead, it hasn’t been a key to victory.
However, even with the league’s top netminder Michael Houser staring down at them, Niagara’s breadth of offensive talents are due for a couple of breakout performances.
“We want to get a good start; it’s really important,” assistant general manager/coach Misha Donskov said. “They compete hard in their own barn, and the puck bounces off the boards in odd ways.”
Overall, the IceDogs have the second-best power play in the playoffs with a 24.7 per cent success rate through 81 opportunities. On home ice, they find the net on almost one-third of their chances (28.3 per cent).
The second question is the health of Knight. Though the Boston Bruins prospect played the entirety of Game 3, a “nagging” ankle injury made him a game-time decision.
Calling the last-second verdict “precautionary,” Knight confirmed to Metro London he is “fine” and the injury is “minor.”
The marquee winger took part in the squad’s loose 40-minute workout Tuesday afternoon at the Western Fair Sports Centre, another hint he will be in the lineup when they travel to St. Catharines.
Despite being the lone London player currently in the negative plus-minus rating column, the four-year veteran has contributed by being a sparkplug on the second forward trio. Knight’s chemistry with sniper Greg McKegg, like Niagara’s potent offence, could very well erupt in Game 4.
“This is playoff hockey,” Donskov said of the game’s unpredictability this time of year. “There’s a long, long way to go before (this series) is over.”
- “As of right now, who would you choose as the OHL post-season MVP?”
- @BrianBlatnicki: “Michael Houser – Can’t think of anyone who is more valuable to this team thus far in the playoffs”
- @JCentifonti: “Perhaps Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome, Michael Houser, or Ollie Maatta #OHLPlayoffs”
- @CarrollThorpe: “Michael Houser. He has kept the top scorers off the score sheet.”
- @RyanLitt07: “Maata … He has definitely been a clutch player in these playoffs! Racking up lots of points.”