Both the London Knights and the Niagara Ice Dogs came steaming into this series with plenty of momentum. The Knights had gone 12-2 in their first two series, while the Ice Dogs sported an even more impressive 12-1 record, and both teams were coming off a sweep of their respective opponents in the previous round of the OHL playoffs. Suffice it to say that Budweiser Gardens was jumping.
The Knights got off to a slow start in this one, as the Ice Dogs had more energy and forced the Knights into taking the game's first penalty as Owen MacDonald was called for a faceoff violation in the defensive zone. Niagara took the game's first 5 shots on goal before London managed to get on its feet.
With Ryan Mantha in the box for roughing, the Knights' power play went to work and generated several fantastic chances, with Mitch Marner feeding Matthew Tkachuk down low in front of the net to create all kinds of havoc in front of the Niagara net. The Knights, however, couldn't cash in.
Marner had a glorious chance on a clear breakaway mid-way through the period, but although he managed to slide a shot through Niagara star goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, the puck dribbled out the other side just past the post.
For the remainder of the first, the Ice Dogs carried more of the play than the Knights did, although the 10-5 shot advantage that Niagara held after 20 minutes wasn't entirely indicative of the flow of play. The teams went to their respective dressing rooms still tied 0-0.
The second period saw the Knights start the period with more jump, and it wasn't long before some good work on the forecheck by J.J. Piccinich paid off. While going after the puck carrier into the offensive zone corner, he managed to tip a pass directly to MacDonald, who pounded a one-timer past Nedeljkovic to tie the game at of the second.
Niagara responded with a couple good shifts, and managed to draw a penalty to Chad Hefferman for high-sticking. Fortunately for the Knights, defencemean Victor Mete made a great tip play in his own zone to spring Cliff Pu (a fan favourite in London) on a 2-on-1. Pu drove the net with a lot of speed and pulled off a fantastic move to slide the puck over to Chandler Yakimowicz. The Knights suddenly had a lead.
Again, the Ice Dogs upped the pressure, with Josh Ho-Sang giving Knights' defenders fits down below the goal line. He used his excellent lower body strength and great stop/start speed to protect the puck and create several good chances.
Just as it appeared that Niagara might notch the tying goal, Marner collected the puck along the half wall in the offensive zone and sent a perfect slap-pass to Tkachuk to make it 3-1 London with just over 25 seconds remaining.
As the Knights headed off after 40 minutes, the team had to be happy with their period, as they scored 3 goals and pushed back very well on the shot clock, leaving it knotted at 17 a piece.
The Knights played the Ice Dogs relatively evenly through the third period, especially considering they were protecting a 3-1 lead going in.
Marner extended the Knights' lead to 4-1 on a 4-on-3 power play with 10:03 left in the period as he drifted in off the point, stepped by one defender, and snapped home a shot inside the post. Tkachuk was manning his usual post in front of the Niagara crease.
Niagara's spirit appeared broken going into the final minutes of the game, as the push to chip away at the Knights' lead wasn't strong enough to make a dent.
London cruised through the remainder of the game to win 4-1 while the shot count wound up at 28-23 for Niagara.