For the Journal
Sarnia Legionnaires goaltender Logan Phillips made 38 saves in a 4-2 win over the St. Thomas Stars Friday as the two teams wrapped up a home-and-home series with Sarnia taking both wins and improving to 4-3-1 on the season.
Legionnaires head coach Brian Irwin says it was an exciting week for the hockey team.
“We had an exciting game at home that went to overtime, and we pulled it out in the shootout,” he said about Thursday night’s game. “Then [Friday] a classic road game for us, we came out strong.”
Sarnia got off to a good start Friday, leading the shots 25-12 in the first period. Despite the lopsided shot clock however, both teams would head into the first intermission tied 1-1.
“It was a real good start to the hockey game, and I thought it was important after such a short turnaround and bus trip down there,” Irwin said.
Kaedyn Long gave the Stars an early lead, about five minutes in, with his fourth of the season. Sarnia would answer back as Aden Hakkers found the back of the net on the penalty kill, notching his second goal of the season.
“It kind of turned into a special teams battle,” Irwin told The Journal. “Our special team guys were great last night.”
Sarnia was effective on both the penalty kill and powerplay as the Legionnaires scored twice with the man advantage, while holding the Stars to just one goal on seven chances on the powerplay.
Sarnia held a one goal lead into the third period as Cameron Graham scored the only goal of the middle period, his fourth of the season.
The Legionnaires would score twice in the third; Ethan Waddick with his first of the season just under five minutes in. That powerplay goal put Sarnia ahead 3-1. Wesley Brooks added his second of the season just past the seven-minute mark of the third, another powerplay goal to take the three-goal lead.
“The other big thing from last night was our veteran guys,” said Irwin. “They played a lot in the last five minutes, just closing hockey games out.”
The Stars were able to cut the Sarnia lead to 4-2 on a late powerplay goal from Quinn Gavin-White, his first of the season.
Irwin noted that while some of his veteran leaders are relied upon for scoring, he was pleased to see them contribute by shutting the game down in the final minutes.
“It was a great night for them; it doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but that veteran leadership about finishing hockey games. They were outstanding.”
Thanks to the teams trading timeouts, Irwin says that gave him a chance to keep that veteran leadership on the ice, and shut down the Stars as they had the goalie pulled.
“The big message for the hockey team as we get going here is to be a good teammate,” said Irwin, as they look ahead to next week.
“A teammate is going to appreciate shot blocks, finishing checks, taking a hit to make a play and being strong in the D zone.”
Irwin also credits goaltending with how his team performed this week — both Jack Martin and Logan Phillips picking up wins. Martin made 27 saves Thursday night in the shootout win, while Phillips was outstanding in Friday night’s game.
“It’s nice to have a tandem, and these guys are really gelling together,” said Irwin. “They are developing a real strong friendship, and a one and one relationship off the ice, and encouraging each other.”
Sarnia was also short on players due to injuries, but Irwin was impressed with how call-ups Carter Fogarty, Matteo Craievich and Luke Laevens played this week.
“Three call ups all contributed,” he said. “Thursday night Carter was on the ice for the tying goal, a hard forecheck from a kid we really like.”
He added that the two defensemen Craievich and Laevens played well; Laevens had an assist in Friday night’s game for his first career GOJHL point.
The Legionnaires now prepare for the next three games on the docket as they face off against the LaSalle Vipers on the road Wednesday night; then back home Thursday to host the London Nationals at the Pat Stapleton Arena; and finishing the week Saturday at home to St Marys.
“We are just taking it one week at a time, I think the guys are aware of the challenge ahead of us,” Irwin said, pointing to the upcoming games, all of which are teams ahead of them in the standings.
“This is a big week for us, and to go in with two wins under our belt, it’s nice to go in having grabbed four points this week.”
The Legionnaires head to LaSalle Wednesday, and back home Thursday against London at the Pat Stapleton Arena for a 7:10 p.m. puck drop.
Sarnia will get a day off in between, before hosting the St Marys Lincolns Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. as well.