Firebirds Dropped by Knights, 9-2
FLINT, Mich. — Nathan Aspinall and Nolan Dann both scored but the visiting London Knights rode Ruslan Gazizov’s hat trick and a 23-save performance by Michael Simpson to a 9-2 win over the Flint Firebirds on Wednesday night at the Dort Financial Center.
The Knights grabbed a 1-0 lead with the lone marker in the first period. New York Islanders prospect Isaiah George flicked a pass from behind the goal line to Gazizov centered between the circles. He faked a forehand shot through traffic in front of Nathan Day, then carried to his right and backhanded the puck under the netminder’s glove to give his team the lead.
Flint managed to tie the game early in the second period immediately following a power play. Matthew Jenken took a shot from the right circle that Simpson blocked, allowing the rebound to trickle into traffic in the slot. The loose puck found its way to Aspinall between the hash marks who sent it through traffic toward the net. His shot slid through and beat the goaltender low, evening the score at one.
The remainder of the middle frame was all London, as the visitors hung five unanswered on the Firebirds in a span of less than 11 minutes. First Alec Leonard slapped one from the right point and Kasper Halttunen deflected it past Day from the top of the crease. Then Kaleb Lawrence lifted a Firebird’s stick to free the puck, gathered it, deked and flipped a shot past Day’s blocker, extending the lead to 3-1.
Gazizov scored his second of the night with a seeing-eye shot from the right faceoff dot just inside the near post up high, elevating the Knights to a 4-1 advantage at 13:34. Exactly 25 seconds later he lifted a shot over Day’s outstretched right pad to complete the hat trick and drop Flint into a four-goal deficit.
With less than five minutes remaining in the second, Sam Dickinson slipped a pass under a diving defender between the hash marks to Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Easton Cowan who was crashing the net on the back side. Cowan kept his stick on the ice and redirected the pass up and over Day’s shoulder to make the score 6-1.
London scored back-to-back power-play tallies to start the third period, coming from the sticks of Oliver Bonk and Max McCue. Flint answered when Dann sniped a wrister from the left circle over Simpson’s far shoulder to make the score 8-2. Denver Barkey capped off the scoring with the ninth of the evening for the Knights with under three to play.
With his goal, Dann now has points in 16 of his last 17 games. Aspinall netted his 14th goal of the season. Flint fell to 19-25-3-1 in the loss while London improved to 36-11-0-3 and extended its point streak to 21 games.
The Firebirds will next take the ice on Friday night on the road in Oshawa against the Generals. Puck drop at the Tribute Communities Centre is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.
Story: Brandon Mills // flintfirebirds.com
Photo: Todd Boone