London advances to Sutherland Cup final after six-game win over defending champion Listowel
The final minutes of Game 6 in the Sutherland Cup semifinal felt like an eternity to Pat Powers and the London Nationals.
Hanging on to a one-goal lead Friday night in Listowel, the Nationals killed off three straight penalties – including a prolonged five-on-three – and Zachary Springer stopped Chayse Herrfort on a penalty shot with 9:29 left.
Riley MacRae’s empty-net goal with one second remaining sealed a 3-1 London win over the Cyclones and sent the Nats to their third Sutherland Cup final in four seasons.
“It was incredibly stressful,” Powers said, “but the guys on the bench did a great job of staying calm and in the moment and focused on whatever they needed to do, and it made the victory more satisfying.”
London’s depth was once again the difference, as the Nationals outshot Listowel 37-22 despite being shorthanded eight times. Powers’ plan was to focus on Listowel’s top line of Herrfort, Holdyn Lansink and Brayden Krieger and let the Nationals’ other nine forwards win their matchups.
“The emotion can wear guys out, and I thought we were able to roll guys out continuously,” he said.
After Krieger opened the scoring midway through the first period of Game 6, MacRae replied less than four minutes later.
Christian Polillo buried the winner at 12:28 of the middle frame with the man advantage.
Listowel, even with its power-play opportunities, only registered seven shots in the final 20 minutes. The Cyclones’ reign as junior B champions came to an end. So, too, did the junior careers of Listowel linchpins Herrfort, Lansink, and head coach Jason Brooks.
“The team that’s won four (straight) West titles has a chance at a Sutherland Cup final,” Brooks said. “A team that was built to go for this (beat) a team that was rebuilding and retooling.
“(We) battled and competed,” Brooks added. “London’s depth was apparent all series, rolling four very good lines over the boards and six very good defencemen over the boards. Our guys had to battle tooth and nail to compete with them, and I thought they did.”
London will face the winner of Waterloo and Niagara Falls. The Siskins lead that semifinal 3-2 after dropping the last two games.
Powers knows his team can’t take anything for granted.
“We’re still hungry,” he said, “and we have two guys (Max Vinogradov and Colin Wilson) who have been here four years, and they feel it’s their time, and they’re gunning for it.”