The London Knights have a seemingly unstoppable duo strapping on the pads these days.
Overager Kevin Bailie and 18-year-old Jake Patterson are both in the top three in the Ontario Hockey League’s goals-against average rankings.
Over the club’s 12-game unbeaten streak, the coaching staff has been able to sub one for the other without missing a step. Each has registered two shutouts during that time.
A former teammate is happy for the Knights and their netminders — especially Patterson, who is “really coming on” — but doesn’t hold back when asked about what stands out about his new squad.
“We have the best tandem of goalies, for sure,” said ex-Knight Andreas Athanasiou, now a member of the Barrie Colts, “and (starting goaltender Mathias Niederberger) is one of the best goalies in the league.”
Athanasiou, selected by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2012 NHL draft, was shipped north in August after demanding a trade from London. The quick-footed forward wanted a secure spot on the team’s top two lines — something that couldn’t be promised going into Knights training camp.
The Colts, on the other hand, who are here Friday night, have given him exactly what he wants. The Woodbridge native has 12 goals and 25 points in 26 games, putting him on pace to double his career highs.
“Even in close games, they’re putting me out on the first line with (Winnipeg Jets first-rounder Mark Scheifele),” Athanasiou, 18, said. “I’m getting a good opportunity, and it’s closer to home, so it’s fun.”
One thing Athanasiou has noticed throughout the season is that Barrie’s style of play closely resembles a foe the Knights begrudgingly know well.
“When we played (the Shawinigan Cataractes in the 2012 Memorial Cup final), they were a real fast team,” he said. “And I think this team is just as fast. We’re really dynamic.”
The Knights are nearly perfect against Eastern Conference teams this year, boasting a 7-1 record, including a 3-2 shootout victory in Barrie last month.
As it stands now, the Colts and Knights lead their respective conferences, so Friday’s tango could be an OHL final preview.
“We’re playing some pretty big rivalries right now,” said London assistant coach Dylan Hunter. “Regardless of any streak we’re on, the guys would be up for it.”
Budweiser Gardens, 7:30 p.m.
Versus: Barrie Colts
The hot hand: Mark Scheifele (20 goals, 23 assists)
Budweiser Gardens, 7 p.m.
Versus: Guelph Storm
The hot hand: Tanner Richard (2 goals, 31 assists)
Hershey Centre, 2 p.m.
Versus: Mississauga Steelheads
The hot hand: Riley Brace (8 goals, 25 assists)
*This post also appears in Metro London’s Nov. 30 print edition