Highlights by DAVE PAUL, Video by Dan Paul
Photos by Pat Brethauer
The Sarnia Legionnaires began the GOJHL playoffs with a thud, Thursday night at Sarnia Arena.
After edging out the London Nationals for fourth place (and home ice advantage in their first round, head-to-head playoff series) in the regular season standings, the Legionnaires were thumped by the Nationals, 5-1, in the playoff opener.
The Nationals used their size to their advantage early in the game, physically dominating the Legionnaires in the early going. They were also the more intense of the two teams -- at least for the first two periods of the game. It took the Legionnaires 40 minutes before they began really skating and regularly taking the play to London. But, by then, it was too late.
"They brought it tonight," said Sarnia coach Dan Rose, following the decisive loss. "That was a playoff atmosphere. I think we thought we were in a regular season game. … It was a good lesson for us."
London began the game with a clear game plan -- aggressively go after the Sarnia skaters. It didn't take long to work as they forced the Legionnaires to make a few early mistakes and took advantage of them. Paul Hopkins scored just over four minutes into the period, and again with just under four minutes left to go in the stanza, giving London a 2-0 lead. Then, with less than 90 seconds to play in the first, London's Matt Wildman scored a back-breaking shorthanded goal, to give the Nationals a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Not as dominant a period for London, but they still probably outplayed (and outhustled) the Legionnaires. They also scored the only goal of the period -- by Ryan Tuffin, with under three minutes left to play in the period. At the end of 40 minutes, the Nationals had racked up four goals while the only local shooter to find the back of the net was the fan who won the shooteroo contest during the first intermission.
London struck early, essentially icing the game with a power play goal at 1:35 to extend their lead to 5-0. Sarnia's Josh Kestner finally got the home team on the board when he scored on a penalty shot, five minutes into the period. The Legionnaires were better in the second half of the game and wound up outshooting London 38-32, but that was somewhat deceiving. Jacob Riley was the winning goalie while Hunter Johnson took the loss for Sarnia.
Sarnia's power play was 0-for-7 on the night while London went 1-for-2.
Game 2 is Saturday in London while the two teams meet again Sunday night in Sarnia for Game 3 of the series.
Post Game Interview with Head Coach Dan Rose
Coach Dan Rose said:
"They have playoff experience and it showed tonight. They came out and showed our guys the type of intensity and compete level that you have to have in the playoffs.
"They built some momentum off of three neutral zone turnovers," continued Rose. "Those were simple plays that we could have made … that we normally make. We allowed them to have confidence by making bad plays tonight. If we can eliminate those plays and get pucks deep and play a 200 ft. game then it's a lot simpler.
"We had a lot of scoring chances tonight, we really did," said Rose. "Early in the first period, if we'd have scored two or three there, we might have had the momentum. But we didn't and then we turned the puck over and they scored two of those goals in the first period off turnovers.
"They're going to take penalties. They don't care. They play on the edge and the refs are going to call it," added Rose. "Our power play has got to get going.
"We'll come back with a good effort on Saturday night in their barn. … The boys know they've got to go in there and win a game and steal (home ice advantage) back."