Ontario Hockey League referee Jason Faist played an unusual role in Saturday’s playoff game between London Knights and Windsor Spitfires.
He awoke the Sleeping Bear, alias 6-foot-5, 228-pound Knights’ defenceman Nikita Zadorov.
The precise moment was at the 11:09 mark of the first period when Faist assessed Zadorov a questionable interference penalty, drawing a chorus of boos from the crowd and plenty of animated “advice” from Zadorov.
From that point on, Zadorov showed why he may be the best NHL-defenceman-in-waiting as he carried his London Knights’ teammates to a 6-3 playoff victory over the Windsor Spitfires before 8,933 spectators at Budweiser Gardens.
The Knights now lead the best-of-seven conference quarter-final 2-0 after a 6-1 London win on Friday night opened the series. Next two games in the series will be in Windsor on Tuesday and Thursday.
Saturday’s game also featured a second-period line brawl that resulted in one minor penalty, six fighting majors, one 10-minute misconduct, five game misconducts and one fan ejection. That would be 92 penalty minutes in most leagues, but the OHL does not count misconduct in penalty minute totals.
Knights’ center Michael McCarron may be in trouble with the league as he was the third man in the original fight between Gemel Smith of the Knights and Cristiano Giacinto of the Spitfires.
The fan obviously was obviously a Windsor supporter as she threw two beers into the Knights’ penalty bench, with the second, a Bud Light aluminum beer bottle, striking Zach Bell.
The woman, identified as the mother of Spitfires’ centre Brady Vail, was charged with trespassing and removed from the building.
But before all the silliness, it was the Nikita Zadorov show.
After the penalty, the Buffalo Sabres’ first-round selection went on to gather points in the first four goals of the games, all scored by London. He scored the first and third, assisted on the second and fourth and almost scored on a third on a shorthanded effort.
By the time Zadorov was finished, the game was out ofreach as London went on to take a 5-0 lead. Max Domi, Chris Tierney, Brett Welychka and Bo Horvat scored the other London goals.
Brady Vail, Nikita Yazkov and Ben Johnson scored the other Windsor goals.