By Dan McCaffery
The Sarnia Legionnaires officially wrapped up first place in the Western Ontario Hockey Conference Thursday.
Coach Dan Rose's club defeated the Chatham Maroons 6-2 before more than 1,300 roaring fans at the Brock Street Barn.
The victory mathematically clinched top spot in the nine-team loop for the Legion crew.
More than that, the Sarnians set two records, becoming the first Western Jr. 'B' squad to win 18 regular season championships and the first to win a pennant in seven consecutive decades.
”We're pretty proud as a franchise,” Rose said afterward.
He added the team hasn't played a single game this year with all 20 regulars in the lineup.
Last night, for example, Jeff Paulley, Brent Sauve and Louie Rowe were out with injuries.
The win wasn't as easy as the score would indicate.
In fact, Sarnia needed two empty net goals in the final few minutes to break open what had been a tight contest.
Rose had words of praise for the Maroons, who played hard from start to finish.
Chatham, which is tied with Lambton Shores for the final playoff spot, appeared to want the victory badly.
“They just didn't want to quit,” Rose said. “But we kept battling hard (as well).”
The Legionnaires dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, taking a 2-0 lead.
Derek D'Andrea opened the scoring at the 3:48 mark after being set up by Mike Sollazzo and Mike Dipaolo.
For D'Andrea, it was his 14th of the season.
Nathan Mater made it a two-goal bulge with an amazing shot from the sideboards that went over goalie Hunter Johnson's shoulder and straight into the net.
Sarnia goalie Kyle Washer and Evan Dixon got assists on what was Mater's 14th of the campaign.
After that, the Maroons came to life, storming Washer's cage time and again. Although the Sarnia netman made 20 saves during the first period, Chatham did managed to score twice to go into the dressing room tied at 2-2.
Defenceman Steve Farlow got the only goal of the middle stanza with a shot from the point at 12:41.
Daniel Nikandrov got the only helper on the play.
Nikandrov gave the Sarnians a little insurance just past the mid-point of the third frame when he scored from the side of the net to make it 4-2.
Jesse Drydak and Jesse Teschke got assists on what was Nikandrov's 11th of the year.
After that, Teschke scored his 22nd into an open net and Farlow did the same thing to obtain his 6th of the season.
Washer, who left the game with an injury with 15 minutes to go in the third, made 42 saves to earn his 18th win of the season.
Sean Parker, who came on in relief, stopped all eight pucks he faced.
Overall, Sarnia was outshot 52-43.