Legionnaires Win to Push London to Brink Friday March 7, 2014
By DAVE PAUL
The Sarnia Legionnaires' first round playoff resurgence continued Thursday night at Sarnia Arena with an inspiring 5-2 win over London Nationals.
The victory gave the Legionnaires a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, and was their third straight win after losing the first two games.
Sarnia stormed out of the gates on Thursday night, scoring just 32 seconds into the game. The Legionnaires never lost the lead after that, but things got tense in the third period with Sarnia clinging to a 3-2 lead, until a couple of late goals iced the game for the home team.
London outshot Sarnia in all three periods and held a 27-19 edge in shots, overall. Hunter Johnson was the winning goalie while Jacob Riley took the loss.
Special teams played an important role in the game as both of the Nationals' goals came on the power play, while the Legionnaires went three-for-six with the man advantage.
Sarnia can win the series and advance to the second round of the GOJHL Western Conference playoffs with a victory in London, in Game 6, on Saturday. If necessary, Game 7 will be played Sunday night at Sarnia Arena.
The Legionnaires came out flying and were rewarded just 32 seconds into the game on a goal by Davis Boyer. Sarnia was outshot 7-6, but still played a strong period and extended the lead to 2-0 on a Josh Kestner power play goal at 13:56. Curtis Crombeen assisted on both Sarnia goals.
London's Matt Wildman reduced the lead to 2-1 on a power play goal at 3:30 and both teams had their share of good scoring chances before Brandon Layman restored Sarnia's two-goal lead, with a power play goal at 13:56. Sarnia appeared poised to take a two-goal lead into the dressing room after 40 minutes until a Nathan Mater penalty gave London a power play opportunity with just four seconds left in the period. Incredibly, the Nationals were able to score, with no time left on the clock (the goal was briefly disputed by the Legionnaires) to make the score 3-2 after two periods.
London -- desperate to tie the score -- dominated the play for much of the period. Although they were credited with only eight shots on goal, the Nationals pressured the Legionnaires for long stretches during the period. With approximately seven minutes left to play, Johnson made a sensational, lunging save to preserve the one-goal lead. Then, with just under two minutes remaining in the frame, Boyer, from Kestner, broke through with his second goal of the game to make it 4-2. Cody Trowell scored an empty-netter to wrap things up, with 30 seconds left to play. Sarnia got only four shots on goal in the third.
Coach Dan Rose said:
"We set up a play to start the first period … we got it deep right away and scored off it and after that the energy in the building was great for our guys to feed off of.
"We just wanted to play high energy hockey. We wanted to play a high-tempo, high-energy game tonight," added Rose. "We figured with that overtime loss last night (for London) -- sometimes that sucks the wind out of you, and we thought it might and we wanted to come out flying."
Regarding the third period (after giving up the late goal in the second), Rose said:
"It's our period -- the third period. We've played well the last couple of months in the third period and we knew if we just came out and played our game we'd be OK and we were."
"Give them credit, they really pressed and Hunter held the fort. That one save he made was unbelievable," said Rose. "He held the fort and that's what you need your goaltender to do in the playoffs."
On the possibility of winning the series in six games, Rose said:
"We would like an extra day's rest, but we have to earn it. I know that they won't quit but that's what we signed up for."
"We'll go in there and give it our best effort. … The nice thing is that we do have home ice, but we'd really like to end it Saturday night and we'll do our best to do that. But we know they'll be up for the challenge so it should be a good game."
Davis Boyer said:
"We're in the driver's seat now but we're not letting up. It's still pedal to the metal and keep taking it to them."
"We went down two (games) … especially (against) a team like this, with a lot of older guys, we know London's going to come out battling. We know where they've been, we know what they've done and for us it was just taking it game by game, and not to panic when we got down.
"For us, it's just keep doing what we're doing."
Hunter Johnson said:
"They're going to come out chippy (on Saturday night), that's their style. So we have to just play our game and use our speed and things should be good."