London, Ont. – Emanuel Vella posted a highlight-reel night en-route to setting a franchise record for the most saves in a single game, stopping the puck 54 times. The Firebirds have never come within one goal of the Knights in London until Friday. Flint was first to strike in the opening period and tied the contest in the third to force overtime but the Knights prevailed with a 3-2 victory in front of a sold out crowd of 9,036 fans at the Budweiser Gardens. Ethan Keppen and Hunter Holmes tallied for Flint. The Firebirds have now earned five out of a possible six points in their last three games.
Flint scored the only goal of the first period while on the man-advantage. Former London Knight Vladislav Kolyachonok passed from the left point to Riley McCourt on the right. McCourt rifled a slap-shot on goal that netminder Jordan Kooy (Vegas Golden Knights) stopped. Ethan Keppen was waiting for the rebound on the doorstep and took two swings at the puck before sending a backhander through the five-hole for his 27th of the season at 7:13.
London outshot the Firebirds 16 – 9, but Emanuel Vella kept them off the scoreboard through 20 minutes.
The Knights tied the game 4:56 into the middle frame with a short-handed marker. Liam Foudy (Columbus Blue Jackets) carried the puck end-to-end. He hit the brakes at the right offensive face-off dot and shook off a Firebird defender. He dished a cross-ice pass to Alec Regula (Detroit Red Wings) for a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle, resulting in his 11th of the campaign.
Evan Bouchard (13), who played seven games with the Edmonton Oilers earlier this season, gave London their first lead of the game on the power play at 9:31 of period two. He played a little back-and-forth with Kevin Hancock at the right and Adam Boqvist (Chicago Blackhawks) on the left across the top of the point. Once he found a shooting lane, he fired a one-timer into traffic, blocker-side.
Second-period shots were 18 – 9 to London’s advantage.
At 7:09 of the third, Hunter Holmes tied the contest with the game’s first even-strength goal. Even Vierling hit Hunter Holmes in stride as he hit the offensive blue line. Holmes slowed and cut toward the high slot when he got into the right circle, and reversed momentum with a low wrister just inside the left post. The goal was his 10th of the season, assisted by Vierling and Kyle Harris.
After 60 minutes, 51 of London’s 53 shots were stymied by Vella. Kooy had stopped 24 of Flint’s 26 attempts.
The five-minute three-on-three overtime was an incredible display of goaltending on both ends of the ice. There were quality scoring chances blanked on both ends before Jordan Kooy sent a candidate for ‘set-up-pass of the year’ through traffic to Boqvist as he broke free across center ice. With the nearest defender two strides behind, Boqvist stickhandled into the zone and lifted a quick shot to Vella’s left to end the game at 2:24 of the extra frame.
Final shots favored London 57-28. Vella was named the game’s first star after surpassing Brett Moran who made 52 saves in a game in Dec. 2015. The Firebirds were 1-for-6 on the power-play and were 4-for-5 on the penalty kill.
Next Home Game:
The Firebirds will return home this Saturday to host the Windsor Spitfires at the Dort Federal Event Center at 7 p.m. (ET).
Saturday is Overager Night, Whaley Night and Scout Night! The Firebirds’ two “Overagers,” Hakon Nilsen and Emanuel Vella will be honored prior to the game. In the OHL, an overager is a player that begins the season at 20 years of age. A team is only allowed to have three overage players on their roster after the trade deadline in January, which is their final allowed season in the OHL. Also, all scouts in attendance receive the Firebirds’ official ‘scout patch.’
In addition, the Firebirds are teaming up with the Whaley Children’s Center (WCC) for a donation drive where fans can bring in five or more personal hygiene items to receive a complimentary Silver Level ticket, presented by Genesee Packaging, Inc. and Landaal Packaging and sponsored by Corrigan Moving Systems, Big John Steak & Onion, and Oasis Outsourcing. Proceeds from the Firebirds’ gameday 50-50 raffle will be donated to WCC.
The Whaley Children’s Center is a private agency that focuses on caring for children and families in crisis and has a great need for a variety of personal hygiene products including antibiotic cream, band-aids, Chapstick, children’s chewable Motrin/Tylenol/Pepto-Bismol, disposable cleaning wipes, ethnic hair care products, feminine hygiene products, first aid kits, hair brushes, heat packs, laundry soap & scent boosters, liquid body wash, lotion (hypoallergenic), Nair, paper towel, overnight pads, toilet paper, undergarments, twin XL bedding, etc.
Photo Credit: Todd Boone / Flint Firebirds
For more information:
Director of Broadcasting & Communications
Flint Firebirds Hockey Club