London Nationals complete series sweep over Sarnia Legionnaires

From the London Free Press


The Sarnia Legionnaires went down fighting Sunday.

Coach Derek Di Muzio’s charges were eliminated from the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League playoffs after dropping a rough-house affair to the heavily favoured London Nationals.

The Nats, who finished in first place during the regular season, scored three unanswered goals in the final frame to skate off with a 4-1 victory before just under 900 fans at Sarnia Arena.

London won the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final in four straight games.

However, it wasn’t as easy as the official record would indicate. Besides the fact that the score was tied after 40 minutes of play, it was a bitterly contested contest that saw Sarnia receive 126 minutes in penalties. London was sentenced to 95 minutes in the sin bin.

All four games were close until the final stages, with the spunky Legionnaires, who finished the regular schedule in eighth spot, staying with the powerhouse Nats for prolonged periods in every match.

“I thought we learned a lot about our hockey club,” Di Muzio said. “We were a competitive group. We didn’t quit. That’s why there was so much emotion in the game.

“They (the Nationals) didn’t like the fact that we pushed back. They wanted an easy game and we didn’t give it to them. It’s a real band of brothers in our room.”

Di Muzio singled out goalie Nolan DeKoning for special praise.

“He was the best player in the series,” the bench boss said.

General manager Tom Norris said, “there’s a nice crop of young local players that are eligible to return (next season). We’ve got a lot of good 16- and 17-year-olds coming up.”

The first period ended scoreless, although Sarnia captain Ben Schoch rang a shot off the crossbar.

Jake Vince gave Sarnia its only lead in the second period when he led an end-to-end rush, finishing up by snapping home a hard drive from the faceoff circle.

Moments before firing, he looked over at one of his teammates, as if he was going to pass. That may have caught Nats goalie Brock Baier off-guard. However, Baier was solid the rest of the way, stopping two dozen shots.

DeKoning made 28 saves for the Legionnaires.

Cohen Kiteley tied the game before the middle stanza came to a close. He scored again in the third, along with Josh Castle and Michael Boushy.

Carson Peer and Drayton Todoroff had assists on Vince’s goal.