Kevin Hancock had a four-point afternoon for the London Knights as they blew out the North Bay Battalion 8-1 at Budweiser Gardens on Sunday.
Hancock now has 48 goals and 98 points in his overage season with nine games remaining on the London schedule.
The victory keeps the Knights four points in front of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for first place in the Western Conference.
It was the second Sunday in a row that London scored eight times on its opponent. The Knights knocked off the Erie Otters 8-5 on Feb. 17. This time around, they did it with eight different goal scorers.
After the game, Hancock pointed out just how important that was.
“All lines were going, and the depth was great,” said the overage Knights forward. “All six [defencemen] played great, and [Joseph Raaymakers] made some big saves so it really was a total team effort that got us that win.”
Connor McMichael and Liam Foudy each had a goal and an assist, and London defenceman Adam Boqvist added a pair of assists.
Justin Brazeau scored the lone goal for the Battalion.
London outshot North Bay 51-23.
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Paul Cotter and Tonio Stranges have combined on some nail-biting games of rock-paper-scissors this season — the duo plays at the end of every warmup, with the winner earning the right to leave the ice last. On Sunday, Cotter and Stranges combined on a beautiful goal to open the scoring against the Battalion. Cotter swooped across the North Bay blue line on the left side, beat a defender and fed a pass in front of the net that Stranges buried for his 12th goal of the year and a 1-0 London lead.
During the first period, Raaymakers of the Knights made two saves in quick succession off Matthew Struthers, who won a race to a puck that he had dumped in off the end boards.
Hancock scored his 48th goal of the year with 29 seconds to go in the first, putting London ahead 2-1.
London captain Evan Bouchard zipped through centre and scored the first of four second-period goals on a snap shot 5:48, and then the Knights tallied goals from Alex Formenton, Josh Nelson and Foudy in a span of two minutes and 55 seconds to break the game open.
McMichael added a third-period goal as he cut hard to the net and picked a corner for his 35th of the season.
The 40-win season
When you play 68 games in a year, winning 40 games isn’t easy. From 1968-2000, the London Knights franchise did it just five times. With their win over Hamilton on Friday night, London made it 13 40-win seasons under the guidance of Mark and Dale Hunter since 2000. If you do the math, they have hit the magic 4-0 almost 70 per cent of the time during the Hunter regime. Forty-win seasons happened roughly 15 per cent of the time before that. By comparison, the next two teams on the list are the Kitchener Rangers and the Barrie Colts, who have done it eight times since 2000. Windsor and Erie are at five. Add up Sarnia, Sudbury, Kingston, North Bay, Peterborough and Mississauga, and they have combined for 12.
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Raaymakers ties Ralph
Raaymakers earned his 29th win of the season on Feb. 24, giving him 108 in his OHL career. That saw him pass former Ottawa 67’s goalie and Maple Leafs broadcaster Jim Ralph for third in all-time wins by an OHL goalie. Ralph played for the Ottawa 67’s from 1978-82. J.P. Anderson is the OHL’s career leader in goaltending victories is with 126. He played for Sarnia and Mississauga between 2008 and 2013. Londoner and former Soo Greyhound Kyle Gajewski ranks second in OHL history with 114.
London will be home to face the Guelph Storm on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. The Midwest Division race is down to the Knights and the Storm. The magic number for London to clinch is five points. Any combination of points gained by the Knights or lost by Guelph totalling seven will mean that London wins the Midwest for the first time since 2013.
The Knights are 2-1-1 against Guelph this year. London and the Storm last met in a midweek game on Feb. 13, and London came away with a 6-1 win.
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London Knights earn their 40th win of the season, beating Hamilton 4-2
Number of 40-win seasons by OHL teams since 2000
London — 13
Kitchener — 8
Barrie — 8
Erie — 7
Sault Ste. Marie — 5
Plymouth/Flint — 5
Windsor — 5
Ottawa — 5
Owen Sound — 4
Guelph — 4
Oshawa — 4
Hamilton/Belleville — 4
Niagara/Miss — 4
Sarnia — 3
North Bay/Brampton — 3
Mississauga — 3
Peterborough — 2
Saginaw/North Bay — 2
Kingston — 1
Sudbury — 0