With four of their best players out of the lineup, the last-place Sarnia Legionnaires gave the top-ranked London Nationals all they could handle Thursday.
But in the end London triumphed 6-5 in overtime.
It looked like it was going to be a cakewalk for London, which jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first period. Logan Gardner got Sarnia’s only goal of the stanza.
Gardner stuck again early in the middle frame when he broke in alone, deked goalie Bryce Walcarius out of position and fired the rubber into the net. Sarnia netminder Jake Knowles earned an assist on the play.
Rookie Brayden Krueger took over after that, scoring twice to deadlock matters at 4-4.
Asked to describe his first goal — which was also his first tally of the season — the 17-year-old said: “I was going in shorthanded on a two-on-one break and I shot it, looking for a rebound. Instead, it went in over the goalie’s far side pad.”
Krueger almost had three goals on the night. In fact, it took a good save by Walcarius to rob him of a hat trick when he broke in alone while Sarnia was two men short.
In the third period, with London ahead 5-4, Gardner completed his hat trick. Centre Joe Ferrera won a faceoff beside the London net, allowing defenceman Jake Vince to unload a blast from the point that Gardner tipped into the cage.
After the game, Krueger said: “We should be higher than we are (in the standings). I think we’ll get going (once the team is healthy) and get on a winning streak.”
He was also pleased with the work of the veterans he has left in the lineup. “Our leadership group is showing character and pulling us in the right direction.”
- Defenceman Ben Schoch had two assists, giving him a team-leading 16 points on the campaign.
- Attendance was just under 1,000 fans.
- London goals were scored by Ryan Martin, Josh LeBlanc (with two), Max Vinogradov and Eric Guest with two, including the winner.
- Knowles was injured in the third period, left the game and did not return. Other Sarnians out of the lineup included Nolan DeGurse, Bryan Dittmer, Ayden Letang and Josh Barraclough.
- Sarnia returns to action next Thursday when it once again hosts the Nationals.
- London outshot Sarnia, 24-21.