It appears as if the Sarnia Sting have found a replacement for Alex Galchenyuk should the young gun indeed join the Montreal Canadiens if and when National Hockey League training camps open. Nikolay Goldobin came into the game with 14 goals and 28 points in 37 games as a late 1995-born talent. He also may have beat the London Knights single-handedly tonight, handing London their first loss since November 1.
The Knights came one game shy of tying the 1984 Kitchener Rangers' win streak of 25 games, losing in overtime on the heels of Goldobin's four-goal performance, in what sounded like an absolute thriller at Budweiser Gardens by Knights broadcaster Mike Stubbs.
Despite having lost two top defencemen Scott Harrington and Olli Määttä to the World Junior tournament, London continued to reel off wins after IIHF camps opened. Perhaps you could say that London was due for a defeat after seeing so many one-goal wins after December 9th—since they they beat Owen Sound 3-2, Guelph 4-3, Kingston 6-5, and the Sting in a 3-2 thriller on New Year's Eve.
Last night after going down 2-0 early in the third period, the Knights got goals from Alex Broadhurst and two from Bo Horvat to take the lead before the period was halfway through, and would hold onto the win. That put the Knights win streak at 24, one shy of the Ontario Hockey League record.
But it was Sarnia's turn for a comeback in the teams' first game of 2013. The Knights had a 3-goal lead and four two-goal leads, but Nikolay Goldobin signalled his draft eligibility, capitalizing on a turnover early in the overtime frame and beating Jake Patterson one-on-one after making a move around defenceman Kevin Raine to seal the 6-5 win for the Sting.
The Sting were down 5-3 late in the third period. Justice Dundas tipped home a Take Pantziris shot from the high slot to pull Sarnia within one. Just under a minute later, with 5:43 left on the clock, Alex Basso wired a shot past London starter Kevin Bailie, who was pulled after allowing 5 goals on 30 Sarnia shots. Patterson didn't have too much of a chance to set an impression, not having to make a save until the overtime frame.
But the Knights fans in attendance (announced at 9046) were gracious in defeat, giving their team a loud ovation to respect a 24-game win streak complete with comebacks, blown leads, great games, blowouts, 19-round shootouts and fine goaltending. It was obviously bound to end at some point, and almost fitting that it came in a wild one-goal overtime victory, a trope utilized by the Knights to get to 24.
Goldobin, though, had his coming out party in this one. He scored the winner, as well as goals in quick succession at the start of the 2nd period to bring the Sting from 3-0 down to 3-2, and then recorded the game's only powerplay goal (an oddity for an 11-goal game) tipping a shot from Charles Sarault late in the second period, pulling his team to within 4-3. It was, oddly enough, his first multi-goal OHL game
Despite the big-name players on both teams playing in Ufa, Russia right now rather than London, Ontario, Sarnia coach Jacques Beaulieu called it as meaningful as game seven in a playoff series. It certainly felt that way listening in; the fans were much louder than they would be for a routine Tuesday night game against a non-division opponent, even if the Sting are tops in the OHL's West Division.
The streak is over, but I'm fairly certain London will find a way to re-group. 24 wins is a rare occurence it's only happened one other time in OHL history, and it's fairly impressive the team got there not just after losing Harrington and Määttä, but Nikita Zadorov missed four games before the Christmas break after being named to Russia's preliminary roster, and Kevin Raine missed three games to suspension.
London still find themselves having earned 49 out of 50 possible points in their last 25 games. They're in first place in the OHL's Western Conference by 14 points over Owen Sound (although have played four more games). If they want to begin another streak, they'll need to do it in the next 3 games, as they only have 28 left on the schedule if they want to make a springtime run at the Rangers' record, which was set during the springtime after rosters were stabilized from world junior and trade deadline play. No doubt the Knights are already the favourites to defend their OHL championship crown, and it's unfortunate for them they fell a single goal short of history.