London Jr Knights Atom AA White Overcome Setbacks to Win the 62nd Annual Preston International Hockey Tournament, News, Atom AA White '09 (London Junior Knights)

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London Jr Knights Atom AA White Overcome Setbacks to Win the 62nd Annual Preston International Hockey Tournament
Submitted By Jordan Fuller on Tuesday, January 14, 2020
The London Junior Knights Atom AA White squad won the Preston International Hockey Tournament on Sunday in dramatic fashion, capping a rollercoaster weekend for the team. 

After losing their first game of the tournament 5-3 to the Ajax Knights, the coaches let the players know every game from that point on was a must-win.  The message was well-received as the Knights won each of their remaining round-Robin games in convincing fashion against the Northumberland Hawks (9-1) and Copper Cliff Reds (2-0). The Knights kept rolling with another dominant win in the quarter-final against Toronto’s West Mall Lightning (6-1). 

That set the stage for a re-match against the Ajax Knights in the semi-final. The Knights learned their lessons from that first game, as they jumped all over Ajax early and often. With their high-flying offence in full display, the Knights cruised to a dominant 6-0 win over the Ajax Knights and a second-consecutive shutout performance for Goalie Munsur Haidar. The win was even more impressive considering the Knights were without 2 of their centers for much of the game due to illness and injury.

That set the stage for an exciting final between the Knights and the North Durham Warriors.  Holding a top-10 ranking in the province and coached by former Toronto Maple Leaf great Gary Roberts, the Knights knew they would need to bring their A-game.  Fortunately, they got a boost before the game, with their 2 centers back into the line-up for the final.  

The lights dimmed and the spotlights shone as the arena’s announcer welcomed the two final teams to the championship game. Right from puck-drop, the action was fast and furious. The Warriors came out flying and almost scored in the first 20 seconds, if not for an unbelievable diving paddle-down stop by goaltender Alex Chrapko. The Knights battled hard in the first period and had several glorious opportunities to score, but could not bury those chances. 

A late powerplay goal by the Warriors gave them a 1-0 lead after one period.   In the second period, the Knights thought they had evened up the score, only to have the goal called back by the officials. The Warriors added another goal to take a 2-0 lead into the third period. The Knights came out with purpose and determination to start the third which resulted in an early break. 

An excellent forecheck led to a turnover in front of the Warriors' net, and tournament all-star Bryson Keenleyside pounced on the opportunity to pull the Knights within 1. With 10 minutes left in the period, the continued pressure applied by the Knights resulted in a powerplay opportunity.  Alternate captains Mason Van Ness and Brett Morrison worked the puck eventually over to the slot, where Kareem Halbouni slid home the puck to knot the game at 2. The crowd went wild! Momentum had clearly shifted, and the Knights continued to press.  The Knights held on as the teams equally possessed the puck and traded chances at both ends of the rink.   

With under 5 minutes left in the game, Knights defenseman Cameron Duncan grabbed the puck inside the Knights blueline, shook off a check, danced around another and entered the Warriors zone with possession. With a quick move, he cut to the middle of the ice onto his forehand and unleashed a wrist shot. The Warriors goalie, partially screened by his own defenseman, didn't see the puck until it was already past him. The shot banked off the far post and in, lifting the Knights into the lead. His teammates piled onto him in celebration, while the crowd went crazy! That set the stage for an intense final 5 minutes.

The Warriors poured on the pressure late to tie the score, even pulling their goalie with 3 minutes to play. The majority of the final 2+ minutes were played in the Knights zone, and both teams used their time-outs to rest key players for the final battle. With 45 seconds left in the game, a Warriors point shot resulted in a chaotic seven-player scramble for the puck in front of the net. The puck stayed out and the Knights cleared the zone several times as the clock ticked down. Defenceman Hunter Pearson (Captain) and Ben Santerre (Alternate Captain) led the defensive effort in the dying seconds of the game.   

With the buzzer mercilessly sounding, the players flooded the ice in celebration of their hard-fought tournament win.  The London Junior Knights Atom AA White team had won the hard-fought battle with a thrilling 3-2 victory! The Knights saluted the Warriors on a great game, then raised the Memorial Trophy in celebration!  

Congratulations to all the players and coaches on a hard-fought and well-earned victory!

Written by: Carmelita & Clayton
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