It couldn’t have gone much worse for the Nationals in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Sutherland Cup championship series and that offers some hope for London coach and general manager Pat Powers.
Sam Cherry set up Owen Lane for three goals to stake the Waterloo Siskins to a 9-4 win and a 1-0 series lead Thursday night at Western Fair Sports Centre.
“Everything that could go wrong went wrong and at the wrong times,” a frustrated Powers said.
Powers said the Nats did a good job generating scoring chances early in the game, but he was disappointed by his defence and his goaltending.
“I thought we were absolute crap,” he said. “We let them out of their zone too easily, we backed down at the blue-line too much, we were soft in our corners and we didn’t get a save when we needed it.”
Powers said that although the Nats defensive game was uncharacteristically weak, it’s only the opener in a seven-game series and he expects a more determined effort in Game 2 Sunday afternoon in Waterloo.
“We knew they were a hard-skating team and we just didn’t match their effort,” he said. “We can chalk it up to not playing our type of game. . . . We’ll go back to work, we’ll go to Waterloo and we’ll be a little hungrier for it.”
Waterloo coach Todd Hoffman said his team accomplished its goal of coming out to strong start, but he felt the Siskins took their foot off the gas in final 10 minutes of the game.
“Whenever you can scored nine goals in a playoff game you’ve got to be impressed with that,” Hoffman said. “But I didn’t think we stuck to our game plan. We got kinda lazy and they got a couple goals there, which I wasn’t pleased with. . . . We have to make sure that we play 60 minutes.”
Cherry, who leads the Siskins with 38 points in 24 playoff games, added a goal and an empty-netter to his three assists
The teams looked evenly matched in a fast-paced first period, but Alex Lycett wired a wrist shot past Zachary Springer to give the Siskins a 1-0 lead with about three minutes left in the period. Lane made it 2-0, redirecting a Cherry pass from behind London’s net with 50 seconds left in the first.
The Nats seemed like they’d found some momentum when Josh Castle pounded in a loose puck from the side of the net 1:02 into the second, but Lane restored Waterloo’s two-goal lead at 5:19 on another setup from Cherry.
Lane completed the hat trick, taking a long pass from Cherry just after the Siskins killed off a penalty. He was all alone outside the Nats blue-line and slipped the puck under Springer’s pad on the breakaway.
Cherry scored the Siskins fifth goal at 18:48 of the second on Jukka Schotter, who came in to replace Springer.
Noah Tooke scored two goals in the third period for the Nationals.
Waterloo’s Matt Onuska was sharp, stopping 37 shots, including a Cal Davis penalty shot late in the third period.
Schotter stopped 18 shots for London and Springer made 14 saves.
The crowd of 836 observed a moment of silence in honour of former Nationals coach Kelly Thomson before the game. Thomson, who died Sunday at age 34, coached the Nats to their only Sutherland Cup championship in 2013.