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OHL Finals recap: London 6 at Niagara 5 (OT)

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The Knights take a 3-0 series lead, can clinch the championship Wednesday night.

Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Game three of the OHL Finals moved from the cavernous Budweiser Gardens in London, ON to a more intimate setting, the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, ON. With half the capacity of Knights home rink, the home of the Niagara IceDogs brought the crowds closer to the teams, and the hometown team needed all the support they could get, coming into game three down 2-0 in the series.

The hometown rallied around the IceDogs, with a pep rally last week that saw hundreds of fans converge in a downtown park to show the players support following a 4-1 game 1 loss to London. Outside of the arena the street was shutdown to traffic for two hours before game time to give fans a street party and amp up the energy before a pivotal game.

The game starts off fast as the Knights make short work of the IceDogs defense and Mitch Marner sneaks in behind to nab a pass at the blueline. He wraps around the goal, and sends the puck up to Tkachuk, who gives it to the bac of the net and the Knights go up 1-0 30 seconds into the game.

The IceDogs get quick revenge, as Ryan Mantha gets one in 30 seconds later and the game is tied 1-1 less than two minutes in.

It's a physical period with the IceDogs coming off on the favourable end of things, nabbing five powerplays in the period. Josh Ho-Sang fed a nice pass to Stephen Harper for the IceDogs first PP goal of the game. The Knights kill off two more penalties, and continue their strategy of "get one of Marner, Dvorak, or Tkachuk behind the D, rush the net" as two more close attempts happen, but neither are successful. Vince Dunn made quick work of the fourth penalty, as he gets one shot blocked but recovers and scores 9 seconds into the power play. Josh Ho-Sang had the fourth goal for the IceDogs, and nice rocket into the high glove side corner of the net. Looks like the book is out on Tyler Parsons.

The fifth penalty for London comes when Matthew Tkachuk gets the butt end into the face of Aaron Haydon, who goes to the dressing room. That's four minutes for Tkachuk, Cliff Pu wasn't have any of the powerplay stuff and races into the IceDogs end and lasers a shot into the net to narrow the gap, making it 4-2 Niagara.

The second starts off with the IceDogs on a 2:46 powerplay. The Knights kill it off and the rough stuff is creeping in more and more as we go through the period. 6 minutes in  Aleksandar Mikulovich gets a nice feed from Ho-Sang and scores Niagara's fifth goal of the game. A review is called because Ho-Sang was offside before the play, but the goal is deemed good, which is surprising as the replay in the rink shows he was a stride across the blue line.

We're getting more sand more physical and the refs aren't getting involved, and London D Olli Juolevi snakes around two IceDogs to score his third of the playoffs, and makes it 5-3 London. Halfway through the period the Knights lead shots 7-2, but goals in the second are tied 1-1.

This game is rough, and culminates with London's Jacob Graves giving IceDogs goalie Nedeljkovic a two hander, which sparks a line on line scrum behind the IceDogs net. DiFruscia and Max Jones leave that with two minutes each, giving us 4 on 4 for the remainder of the second, and 1:49 of the first.

The third period starts 4 on 4 and it's a good back and forth, and when Nedeljkovic leaves half the net open Marner thinks he has a good goal on his hands and shoots but Ned dives across the net and robs him. The same thing happens to Brendan Perlini on the other end, but he's robbed by Tyler Parsons. Chris Martenent and Pavel Jenys get into a shoving match at the blue line after Martenent loses a glove and Jenys shoots it down the ice. Cliff Pu jumps in and is handed a 10 minute misconduct, while Jenys and Martenent get two each for roughing.

Christian Dvorak scores on the 4 on 4 to pull London within 1. Behind the IceDogs net after the 4 on 4 ends Aaron Haydon and Tkachuk get tangled up, Haydon gets Tkachuk into a headlock and takes him down, they both get 2 minutes, and yet another 4 on 4 ensues. Victor Mete scores on that 4 on 4 and the game is tied with 7 minutes left.

Nothing scoring wise goes down but these teams are doing their best to make sure they both are too banged up to do any damage in OT. Mikulovich runs over Tkachuk, lots of stick work, but no calls.  A close call as the IceDogs knock the puck off Dvoraks stick, and it goes right to Tkachuk but he shoots high over the net. The period ends with a minute of action in the IceDogs end, but no score.

Overtime should be renamed Knightstime as the little bit we get is spent entirely in London's control, with the puck never getting to the centre red line. Knights centre Owen MacDonald gets the puck in the net after a flurry of activity around the IceDogs net, 3 minutes into the extra frame.

Game Notes -

The IceDogs new strategy of scoring more than 1 goal per game was a good idea, but now they need to work on "not letting London score more than them"

Matthew Tkachuk had a target on him all game, but he gave as good as he got.

The refs were in "let them play" mode after the second period. Lots of calls I would have made, but then again, I was a terrible ref.

London stays perfect on the road, is now 8-0

Prospect Notes -

A little bit of a worry for Leafs fans as Marner blocks a powerplay shot with the ankle and hobbles off, but is back on the ice in no time, and then Anthony DiFruscia cross checks Mitch Marner in the back, luckily it's not against the boards, but no call is made on the play.

Marner was Marner, not much else to say about that. London's speed killed the IceDogs D.

Piccinich was quiet at the start but really came out of his shell as the third went on, had a lot of work in the IceDogs end near the end of the third.

Cliff Pu was fantastic in this game and could be a good pickup, not just for the puns either, also this:

Yes, he's a real player.

Game four is Wednesday night in St. Catharines. The game will be on Sportsnet360 at 7PM.