London Knights clinch playoff spot for 20th straight year

It has become as much a part of February as Valentine’s Day and watching groundhogs look for shadows.

Invariably, at some point during the second month of the year the London Knights officially put their clutches on an Ontario Hockey League playoff spot.

It happened on Thursday night in Windsor, as London doubled the Spitfires 4-2 in the final meeting between the teams in the regular season.

The victory stretched the Knights’ playoff streak to 20 seasons, which ranks as the longest current streak in the OHL. They have reached the post-season in every year that Mark and Dale Hunter have owned the team.

Thursday’s win over the Spitfires was anything but a given. Windsor is big, skilled and can make life miserable for their opponents, but London played patient hockey and took advantage of their opportunities.

“It was definitely a tough game,” admitted Knights co-captain Alec Regula who scored one of the four London goals.

“They play hard every night and it is a pretty big rivalry between us, so it was a good game and a good win.”

The Knights once again got some big stops from Brett Brochu who made 35 saves in all. His biggest may have happened as London protected a 3-2 lead into the final minute of the game.

Windsor forward Tyler Angle took a pass in the slot and fired a shot at the Knight net. Brochu reached out his arm and knocked the puck away and seconds later, Connor McMichael took a pass from Liam Foudy and scored his 41st goal into the empty Spitfire net.

“He lets us feel calm on the bench because he’s really confident pushing pucks into the corner on tough rebounds.”

Brochu, who is from Tilbury, Ont., used to watch Windsor games with his dad when he was younger.

He ended up as first star of the show on Thursday in a second straight 4-2 win by the Knights. Brochu was named second star in Ottawa on Monday as London knocked off the 67’s.

Jonathan Gruden scored the game winner against Ottawa and scored the Knights first goal against the Spitfires to tie the game 1-1 in the second period after Cole Purboo had opened the scoring. Gruden credited the fact that the veterans on the team “don’t let the players get too high or too low and that leadership trickles right down to the young players.”

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