The London Nationals showed grit and determination in a 6-2 win over the Waterloo Siskins in front of a raucous crowd of 1,021 Wednesday night at Western Fair Sports Centre.
Nationals coach and general manager Pat Powers was encouraged by his team’s improvement in Game 3 after dropping the first two games of the best-of-seven Sutherland Cup championship series.
“There’s no way we can go down 3-0 to a team as skilled as Waterloo is,” Powers said. “Our guys knew the urgency of the situation and they rose to it.”
Powers said the Nationals’ effort level was about the same as it was in their 5-4 overtime loss in Waterloo Sunday afternoon, but Wednesday night things started to click for London.
“We got a few more timely goals, the guys persevered and it was good to see,” Powers said.
The Nationals looked focused and driven for most of Game 3 and James Turner opened the scoring, knocking a loose puck past Waterloo goalie Matt Onuska at 8:20 in the first period.
London continued to press early on, but Winston Cestnick pulled Waterloo even with less than five minutes left in the opening period.
The Nats jumped out to 3-1 lead early in the second when Noah Tooke and Wes Dobbin scored 36 seconds apart.
Tooke picked up a rebound and wired it into the top right corner at 4:44 and Dobbin scored on a feed from George Diaco at 5:20.
The Nationals were outshooting the Siskins 27-11 by the middle of the second, but Sam Spaedt brought Waterloo within a goal with London’s Turner in the box for roughing after the whistle at 11:50.
Adam Keyes tapped in a shot from Zach Sheedy that just slipped through the pads of Onuska 2:15 into the third. Kyle Dawson gave London a three-goal cushion at 3:49 and Tooke scored his second of the game on a five-on-three power play with 3:21 left to play.
Siskins coach Todd Hoffman said he had no comment about how his team played after Game 3.
Zachary Springer made 21 saves for London and Onuska stopped 33 for Waterloo.
Members of London’s 2013 Sutherland Cup championship team paid tribute to Kelly Thomson, who coached the Nationals to their only Cup championship, before Wednesday’s game. Thomson died April 21 at age 34.
Nationals over-age forward Riley MacRae, who has 14 points in 12 playoff games, was suspended four games for a check to the head in Game 2 Sunday in Waterloo.
“I feel badly for Riley and I feel badly for our team, but these things happen,” Powers said. “It’s a bit of adversity and you have to overcome it to win a championship.”
Game 4 is Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Waterloo Recreation Centre.