By Dan McCaffery
The Sarnia Legionnaires won their third Jr. 'B hockey game in a row Saturday, defeating the powerhouse Leamington Flyers 5-2.
The victory, which came in front of more than 1,400 roaring fans at the Brock Street Barn, gave Sarnia a share of fourth place with London in the Western Ontario Hockey Conference standings. And the Legionnaires have a game in hand on the Forest City team.
Leamington came into the contest riding an 11-game winning streak that had carried them into first place.
The win, Sarnia's third in a row, gives them a record of 25-16-2. They have lost just one game in regulation time since the start of the New Year. It also gives them an impressive 16-6-1 home record.
Head coach Dan Rose said goalie Hunter Johnson was a big part of the win. “Johnson was our player of the game, he made some unbelievable saves.”
In fact, the veteran netminder blocked 30 shots to pick up his eighth win since joining the Legion crew in December. Included among his saves were a number of splendid glove stops.
Davis Boyer got the Legionnaires off on the right foot less than a minute into the game when he took a pass from Ryan Vendramin and fired a snap shot home from the top of the slot. For Boyer, who missed 16 games with an injury earlier in the season, it was his fifth goal of the campaign.
The turning point of the match came at the 2:38 mark of the opening frame when Mitchell Amante received a five-minute major for high sticking. In the past, the Legionnaires have squandered such golden opportunities but that wasn't the case this night.
Instead, they scored twice to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
Riley Babkirk got the first one, coming out from the side of the net to tap the puck into a yawning cage. Boyer and Vendramin were credited with assists on what was Babkirk's 12th of the year.
Not long after that, Nathan Mater got what turned out to be the winner, deflecting in a drive from Curtis Crombeen. Josh Kestner also got a helper on what was Mater's 15th of the season.
"We played well tonight,” Mater said afterward. “Everybody battled hard.”
However, the Flyers showed why they're one of the league's top teams, scoring late in the first period and then getting the only goal of the middle stanza to make things close. David Dalby and Dylan Seguin were credited with the Leamington tallies.
The visitors pressed hard throughout much of the third period but Cody Trowell put the game away with a powerplay goal at the 18:37 mark. Vendramin (with his third assist of the game) and defenceman Thomas Moxley set up what was Trowell's 20th of the year.
In the final minute of play, Josh Kestner raced in on a breakaway and beat goalie Austyn Roudebush for his team-leading 33rd of the campaign to make the final 5-2. It was Sarnia's 25th shot on goal.
Coach Rose said later, “We bent but we didn't break. Our powerplay and our penalty kill were both good.”
The Legionnaires return to action next Thursday when they host the Chatham Maroons. Game time at Sarnia Arena is set for 7:10 p.m.
Sarniasports attended both Sarnia Legionnaires and Mooretown Flags Jr. C. games on Saturday and observed players from both opposing teams (Leamington Flyers and Blenheim Blades) had tied their skates with lime green laces.
The green laces were worn in memory of 15 year old Windsor native Kevin Siddall. Kevin, the son of former Detroit Tigers catcher Joe Siddall, passed away on Feb 4th after a six-month battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Kevin was a member of the Windsor Stars Baseball Organization and Windsor Minor Hockey Association and is survived by his parents Joe & Tamara and his three older siblings Brooke, Brett and Mackenzie.
For information on lymphoma or to make a donation go to www.lymphoma.ca