By Dan McCaffery
Brent Sauve's four-goal performance lifted the Sarnia Legionnaires to a much-needed 6-3 win over the Leamington Flyers Tuesday.
The victory allowed the team to pull two points ahead of both the St. Marys Lincolns and Lambton Shores Predators in the battle for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Ontario Hockey Conference standing.
Sauve, who has been hampered by injuries for much of the campaign, raised his goal total for the season from five to nine. He also chipped in with an assist.
Head coach Dan Rose said he talked to Sauve earlier in the day about giving him more ice time now that he is fully recovered from a recent shoulder injury. “He said he was ready,” the coach noted.
Rose added although the win was important, the way the Legionnaires performed was also crucial. “We played the way we are capable of playing,” he said. “The boys needed that, they came in focused and they wanted to win. There was enthusiasm and a lot of talking on the bench.”
The Legionnaires came out on fire, peppering Leamington goalie Austyn Roudenbush with a 25-shot barrage in the first period.
But Josh Kestner got the only Sarnia goal when he caught the low corner, stick side, with a shot from point blank range.
Sauve and and Nathan Mater assisted.
Kyle Bowman tied the game with one of nine pucks the visitors put on net during the opening stanza.
In the middle frame it was all Legionnaires. Sauve picked up a rebound off the back boards and batted in his second of the game at 3:27 into the period, with assists going to Kestner and Mater. A few minutes later rearguard Matt Cimetta notched his fifth of the season with a screen shot from the point. Davis Boyer and Jeff King got helpers on the power play marker, which gave Sarnia a two-goal lead that it would not surrender for the rest of the night.
Sauve got his second of the period at the seven minute mark after being set up by Mater and defenceman P. J. Vandervaart.
But Bowman struck again for the Flyers early in the final frame to cut Sarnia's lead to 4-2.
Sauve completed his hat trick three minutes later when he stole the puck in the Leamington zone and beat Roudenbush with a rising backhander. The play was unassisted.
Nathan Opblinger narrowed the gap once again, but Sauve finished the Flyers off with an empty net goal at 18:58.
Mater got the lone assist on the play, collecting his fourth point of the game.
Attendance at the Brock Street Barn was almost 1,000 fans.
Sean Parker picked up his 12th win of the season, making 28 saves.
Sarnia had 51 shots on goal.
Scoring ace Jason Teschke demonstrated some of the determination the Legionnaires showed all night when he dove to block a shot in the last minute of play.