And so it begins.
The London Knights came as advertised in its 2013 playoff opener Friday.
They overwhelmed the eighth-seeded Saginaw Spirit from puck drop to final buzzer, winning Game 1 of the best-of-seven by a 5-2 score.
London’s regular season points leader, Max Domi, led the club to victory by notching two goals and an assist in front of 9,046 at Budweiser Gardens.
On the sneaky sophomore’s second goal, he took a stretch pass from defenceman Dakota Mermis then capitalized on the ensuing breakaway. Moments before, Domi was jawing at the referee over what the 18-year-old felt was a dirty Saginaw hit.
“That ref’s a great guy, obviously, and he kind of got mad at me a little bit for giving it to him,” said a grinning Domi following the game. “I had to go over and thank him a little bit for not calling that penalty.”
The nifty marker, London’s third in the middle frame, put them up 5-0.
Saginaw goalie Jake Paterson — although left out to dry often — had a performance to forget, allowing five goals on 29 shots. He was replaced by back-up Nikita Serebryakov to start the third. Their counterpart, London’s Anthony Stolarz, stopped 24 of 26 in the win.
Knights captain Scott Harrington, nursing an upper body injury the past month, did not play Friday. He’s listed as day-to-day and, as assistant coach Dylan Hunter put it, will “probably not” suit up for Sunday’s Game 2.
Another one of the team’s pillars, forward Seth Griffith, played his first game since breaking a bone in his right hand Feb. 10. The Wallaceburg native says he’s pleased with himself, even though there’s some lingering rust.
“I just tried to get my feet going right off the bat,” Griffith said. “It’s different going from the regular season, to being injured and doing bag skates, to the playoffs. I haven’t really done as much stickhandling work, so I was fumbling the puck a bit.”
For the most part, the Knights shut down the opposition’s two stars, Spirit captain Garett Ross (pointless) and 95-point man Eric Locke (one assist). To boot, Saginaw’s power play was dreadful, as they were unable to muster much in the way of chances during four man advantages.
Penalty killers Chris Tierney (three assists) and Josh Anderson (penalty shot goal) played well at both ends of the ice for the Knights.
As for what London can improve upon Sunday, Griffith thinks late-game fanciness needs to go. Hunter insists it’s a minor issue.
“It was one of those games — it was 5-0, 5-1 — where guys were trying (high-risk) moves,” Hunter said. “It wasn’t overall glaring, but if it was a close game it would have mattered.”
Results from London’s previous five playoff openers
- 2012: 3-0 win over Windsor (won series 4-0)
- 2011: 4-1 win over Owen Sound (lost series 4-2)
- 2010: 4-3 win over Guelph (won series 4-1)
- 2009: 5-2 win over Erie (won series 4-1)
- 2008: 3-2 loss to Guelph (lost series 4-1)