Facing a near do-or-die situation, Sunday night at Sarnia Arena, the Sarnia Legionnaires eked out a 5-4 win over the London Nationals in a rugged Game 3 of their GOJHL first round playoff series.
The victory was the first of the series for the Legionnaires who lost the opener at home then lost Game 2 in London on Saturday.
Josh Kestner scored the winner at 16:42 of the third, steering home a Jay Clarke cross-crease feed to snap a 4-4 tie. The goal completed a hat trick for Kestner.
The victory ensured at least one more home game for the Legionnaires, who will look to even the series, Wednesday in London. Game 5 will be played in Sarnia on Thursday.
The game was a physical one from the outset, with the Legionnaires appearing determined to match London's aggressive approach to the first two games of the series. Sarnia used defenceman Thomas Moxley as a forward, with the clear objective being for him to use his large frame to pound the Nationals at every opportunity. It was a penalty-filled first period and it was fitting that the first goal came on the power play. Josh Kestner, who had been neutralized by suffocating London checking throughout the first two games, opened the scoring with just over five minutes left in the first. He scored again, at 18:20, to give Sarnia a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
The Legionnaires struck early in the second on a goal by Moxley at 1:10. But London got on the board less than a minute later on a power play and scored again with the man advantage at 14:14 to make it 3-2. A late goal by Davis Boyer gave the Legionnaires a 4-2 lead after 40 minutes.
London scored in the opening minute of the third to make it 4-3, then tied the game when Mike Whaley, scored his second of the game, off a mad scramble in front of the Sarnia net at 11:04.
That set up the Kestner heroics.
Coach Dan Rose said:
"We won that game but I'm not happy with the officiating. … That game got too wild out there.
"There were so many non-calls out there for both teams that players could have got hurt," continued Rose. "I'm hoping that the supervisor of officials was here to watch that."
On the style of play:
"They play an intense, competitive game. That's how they won a championship last season year. … And we just said, we have to match them, stride for stride. And hit for hit."
On Josh Kestner's four-point night:
"He's taking a beating out there, but he just keeps on ticking. … He came to the front tonight and led us."