Three points from Luke Evangelista, two goals by Ruslan Gazizov and Bryce Montgomery’s first OHL goal led to a 4-1 victory by the London Knights over the Erie Otters as London returned to Budweiser Gardens on Friday night.
London had played four straight games on the road during Country Music Week in London, Ont., and the Knights went 3-1 in that span.
Evangelista’s night moved him into fourth overall in league scoring as he now has 20 goals and 36 points in 19 games.
The Knights captain picked up two assists in the opening period alone.
He set up Colton Smith for his 12th goal of the year just six seconds into a Knights power play to make it 1-0 and then combined with linemates Sean McGurn and Ruslan Gazizov to give London a 2-0 lead. Evangelista found McGurn and he dished a pass to Gazizov for his second goal in a Knights uniform.
After Brendan Hoffman cut the London lead in half exactly three minutes into the second period Gazizov struck again for the Knights.
The Omsk, Russia, native stole a puck at his own blue line and went down the ice on a partial breakaway and snapped a shot past Erie goalie Nolan Lalonde. Gazizov is now averaging just over a point per game through his first 12 games in the OHL.
Montgomery scored the only goal of the final period and it goes into the record books as his first ever in the Ontario Hockey League although he came awfully close in Owen Sound on Oct. 27. Montgomery took a feed from Denver Barkey in that game and blasted a slap shot off the crossbar and in, only to have it negated when the play was reviewed and called offside.
Against the Otters, Montgomery carried the puck down the right side of the Erie zone, shot the puck from a sharp angle and it found its way in.
Brett Brochu made his usual large saves at key times stopping 32 shots in all.
The Otters outshot the Knights 33-27.
London continues to sit in first place in the overall OHL standings with a record of 16-4-1.
The final selection camp roster for Team Canada was announced on Nov. 30 and featured both Knights captain Luke Evangelista and goaltender Brett Brochu.
Neither player has represented Canada internationally, but Brochu is guaranteed that will change. Team Canada will only be taking three goalies to the tournament in Red Deer, Alta., and Edmonton, and Brochu will join Sebastian Cossa of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers as the only netminders at camp meaning all three will make the final roster.
Evangelista does not have that luxury but he does have the resume of 20 goals in 18 OHL games this season and the versatility to play up and down the lineup. Team Canada’s final selection camp will run from Dec. 9-13 in Calgary.
When he arrived in London, Ont., Tye McSorley had played 49 games in the Ontario Hockey League going back to 2019 but none of them had happened at Budweiser Gardens.
McSorley was acquired by the Knights on Dec. 1 from the Oshawa Generals for a 10th-round pick in 2023. The hard-working winger stepped on Budweiser Gardens ice for the first time for his first game in a London uniform on Friday night. McSorley laid a whole lot of hits on the Otters and made his presence known on every shift he played.
The Knights will host the Sarnia Sting for their 20th annual Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. This is the first time London has been able to collect bears and other stuffed toys since Dec. 6, 2019, when Knights fans tossed 8,624 toys onto the ice. Last year, even without a game to play, fans donated close to 2,000 stuffed toys that were collected in a drive-thru set-up outside Budweiser Gardens.
The Knights record for bears is 10,671 set in 2012. The Kitchener Rangers hold the Ontario Hockey League record at 11,052 bears. The world record belongs to the Hershey Bears at 45,650 in 2019.
London and Sarnia have met four times this season. The Knights won the first two games and the Sting won the next two.
Coverage will begin at 3:30 on 980 CFPL, at www.980cfpl.ca and on the Radioplayer Canada app.