The London Nationals took over first place in the Greater Ontario Hockey League (GOJHL) Western Conference on Wednesday night with an 8-4 win over the Leamington Flyers.
“We got back on our heels early on so it took us 20 minutes to get ourselves situated,” said Nationals Head Coach, Pat Powers after the game. “I thought we did a really good job in negating odd-man rushes the rest of the way… Full credit to those guys, they worked hard.”
Coming into action, the Nationals were enjoying a hot start to the season with a 7-1-0-0 record, looking for their fourth consecutive win. The Flyers came in as the Western Conference leader with a 7-1-0-1 record, winning their previous four contests.
In addition to Wednesday’s game being a rematch of last season’s Western Conference championship series, the Nationals also held a special pregame ceremony. Prior to the anthem being sung, a breast cancer survivor gave a heartfelt speech of her turmoils with the disease to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
It was the Flyers who got out to the quick start. Just over three minutes into the game, Dylan Weston made a smooth deke through the neutral zone before ripping his league-leading 12th goal of the season off the crossbar and in.
London was able to get the goal back a couple of minutes later with Cal Davis converting an opportunity on the Nationals’ first powerplay of the game. It was the eighth goal of the season and his second on the man-advantage.
The Flyers were quick to respond. Before Davis’s goal could be announced, Cam Symons restored the Flyers’ two-goal lead. The score remained as such after 20 minutes, with both teams registering 10 shots on goal.
In the second period, the Nationals improved their play. Cameron Krupa was able to tie the game 2-2 with his second goal of the season; however, the Nats took a penalty soon after. On the penalty kill, London put together an impressive rush that resulted in Cohen Kiteley scoring his eighth of the season shorthanded.
For Kiteley, it’s his eighth goal in nine games this season after scoring just seven times in 46 games last season. “Last year, I was a bit more of a role player. I knew my role was just to get in the corners and grind. Now, being one of the older guys I have to change to more of a scorer and so far I have two good linemates,” said Kiteley on his improved offensive numbers.
For Powers, he knew that it was only a matter of time before he saw production out of his two-way forward. “He’s just a guy that guys want to play with. His effort is second to none in this league. He’s got very underrated skill and he just kind of sneaks up on guys.”
Dylan Mailloux and Michael Boushy both added goals in a five-goal period for the Nationals. “We just made a couple of small adjustments in their zone so they couldn’t exit their zone as quickly as they could in the first period,” explained Powers. “Obviously if you can keep a team hemmed in their own zone, it’s to your benefit.
Nine different Nationals players recorded multi-point nights, with Josh Castle leading the way with a goal and two assists. As per usual, London peppered the opposing goaltender, recording 40 shots on goal in the game. On special teams, the Nationals went three-for-five on the man advantage, while killing off five of seven penalties taken.
Now the lone leader of the Western Conference, London will take on the Komoka Kings in their next game on Saturday night.