London Knights win Valentine’s Day tilt against Kitchener Rangers

Four assists from Ryan Merkley helped the London Knights move to within one point of top spot in the Western Conference with a 6-3 victory over the Kitchener Rangers on Friday night at Budweiser Gardens.

Merkley now has 15 assists in his past seven games, giving him 67 points on the season.

Another London defenceman continued to produce points with goals as Alec Regula scored his 19th and 20th goals of the year.

Jonathan Gruden also had two goals for the Knights in the game giving him 25 in his first season in the Ontario Hockey League.

After a scoreless first period, the teams combined to score the first four goals of the game on a parade of power plays in period two.

The Knights opened the scoring with a pair of goals that came just 30 seconds apart.

London defenceman Ryan Merkley stretched his assist streak to seven games as he fed Connor McMichael for McMichael’s 39th goal of the year at 3:10 of the second period, as the Knights worked the puck around on a two-man advantage.

Merkley worked more of his mastery as he put the puck on the stick of Jonathan Gruden at the 3:40 mark and Gruden guided it through the legs of Rangers goalie Jacob Ingham, making it 2-0 for the Knights.

Dallas Stars draft pick Riley Damiani cut into the London lead less than four minutes later on a Kitchener man advantage as he cut into the slot and wristed a shot into the upper part of the Knight net past Brett Brochu.

With the Knights on another power play at 13:22 of the second, Merkley and Gruden struck again as Merkley carried the puck deep into the Rangers zone and then fed a pass out front to Gruden and the Senators prospect fired home his 25th goal of the year and London led 3-1.

Damiani got Kitchener to within a goal again before the middle period came to an end. Off the faceoff the puck went off the end boards and Damiani put it into the London net.

Kitchener killed off a London man advantage early in the third period and then tied the game on a knuckling backhand from Ottawa, Ont., native Greg Meireles at the five-minute mark.

Merkley’s fourth assist of the game put the Knights ahead to stay. The 19-year old found Regula to the left of the Ranger net for his 19th goal.

Liam Foudy scored to make it 5-3 less than three minutes later. Foudy was playing his his fourth game in five days. Two of those were with London and the other two came in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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