By Dan McCaffery
The Sarnia Legionnaires ruined the annual 'Fill the Rink' night in St. Thomas Friday by filling the home team's net with pucks.
Coach Dan Rose's club romped to an impressive 7-2 win over the Stars in a Western Jr. 'B' hockey game played before a season-high crowd of almost 1,700 fans at the Timkin Centre.
The triumph was Sarnia's fifth in a row and it came on an evening in which St. Thomas was selling tickets at a reduced price in order to attract a big crowd.
Ryan Vendramin got a natural hat trick (his third three-goal game of the campaign) to lead the visitors to victory. With the outburst, the rookie increased his goals total for the season to 26.
"Vendramin knows how to get pucks to the net,” Rose said afterward. He also praised goalie Hunter Johnson, who kicked out 25 shots for his 10th win since joining the Legionnaires in December.
Josh Kestner got Sarnia off on the right foot when he whipped home a wrist shot from the faceoff circle while storming the St. Thomas net on a two-on-one break. The tally, his team-leading 36th, was set up by Nathan Mater and Tyler Prong.
The Sarnians buzzed around the Stars net for much of the opening frame, outshooting the home side 10-5. And that shot total didn't count a puck Thomas Moxley rang off the post or a shorthanded goal by Davis Boyer that was called back by a quick whistle.
In the second period the Legionnaires collected three unanswered goals. Riley Babkirk started things off with his 13th of the year, rifling home a passout from the sideboards from Riley Roberts.
file photo - Ryan Vendramin
Rookie Brandon Layman scored what turned out to be the game winner not long after that, skating around goalie Nik Dampier before tapping the puck into a wide open net for his first Jr. 'B' goal. Defencemen Curtis Crombeen and Brad Campbell got helpers on the play.
Vendramin got his first of the night before the period ended, snapping home a great pass from Cody Trowell. Moxley also had an assist.
In the final stanza Sarnia came out on fire, with Vendramin scoring two quick goals. Both were similar to his first of the night, with the big sniper standing off to the side before accepting perfect passes and whipping pucks into the St. Thomas cage. Assists went to Babkirk, Moxley and Roberts.
Sarnia's final goal came off the stick of Trowell (although Pointstreak mistakenly credited it to Jay Clarke).
Rearguard Hayden Allen set the play up when he came charging out of the penalty box, skated hard into the corner and then feathered a pass to Trowell, who was wide open in the slot.
For Trowell, it was his 22nd of the campaign.
After the game, the Legionnaires said the scoresheet mistake will be corrected to ensure Trowell gets his due.
John Warren and Spencer Hutchinson scored for St. Thomas.
The Legionnaires, who now sport a 27-15-2 record, sit alone in fourth place in the Western Ontario Hockey Conference standings, two points ahead of the London Nationals. Both teams have four games left.
Sarnia is in LaSalle next Wednesday and hosts Strathroy on Thursday.