By Dan McCaffery
The Sarnia Legionnaires blanked the Strathroy Rockets 5-0 Thursday in an important Jr. 'B' hockey contest.
With the win, coach Dan Rose's squad took a three point lead over the sixth place Rockets in the Western Ontario Hockey Conference standings. Perhaps just as significant, the Sarnians climbed within two points of the fourth ranked London Nationals. The top four teams get home ice advantage in the playoffs.
Sarnia, which now sports a 24-16-2 record, has two games in hand on London and one on Strathroy.
"That was one of our more efficient wins of the year,” Rose said. “We made maybe two mistakes the whole game.”
He added his players “were ready to play and showed it from start to finish.”
Goalie Hunter Johnson kicked out 21 shots for his second shutout in two weeks.
Rose praised Johnson for making several big saves, but added, “that was a team shutout. We didn't give them a lot of time and space out there. We had good D-zone coverage.”
Jay Clarke opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period, firing home a cross-ice pass from Josh Kestner. Nathan Mater got the other assist on the play.
Early in the second frame, Clarke stuck again, finishing off a tick-tack-toe play with Kestner and Mater.
Clarke, who now has 17 goals on the season, said, “We came out and started firing right away. I think everything is coming together right now. I'm looking forward to the playoffs.”
He also sung the praises of goalkeeper Johnson, saying, “He gives the boys confidence.”
Rookie Riley Roberts, who has been on fire lately scored a nifty breakaway goal at the 16:44 mark of the middle stanza. Defenceman Thomas Moxley, who was knocking Rockets down like bowling pins all night, sprung Roberts into the clear with a pinpoint pass. For Roberts, who had been in a prolonged slump earlier in the campaign, it was his third tally in the last two games and his ninth of the year.
In the final period Sarnia didn't let up, scoring twice more.
Cody Trowell's seeing-eye-goal from the sideboards made it 4-0. Ryan Vendramin and Davis Boyer picked up assists on what was Trowell's 19th of the season.
Afterward, Rose singled out Boyer for praise, saying he may have been the best Legionnaire on the ice all night. Although he didn't score, Boyer was probably Sarnia's best defensive forward, the bench boss said.
Vendramin rounded out the scoring, snapping home his 22nd of the season from the faceoff circle. Riley Babkirk and Brad Campbell got helpers on the play.
The Legionnaires return to action Saturday when they host the first place Leamington Flyers. Game time at Sarnia Arena is set for 7:10 p.m.