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SAR-OTT Game Review 01/27/2012, 5-2 Ottawa

by Alex Quevillon
It's impossible to ignore the hype in this city for the upcoming NHL All-Star game. But while the All-Star festivities were on break Friday night, the 67's took center stage in a nationally televised matchup with the Sarnia Sting.

On a night where 2012 NHL All-Stars and 67's Alumni Logan Couture and Brian Campbell dropped the ceremonial pre-game puck, it's very possible that a future All-Star may have been playing in the game.

Sarnia's Nail Yakupov, sidelined with a knee injury sustained in the extra frame of Russia's 1-0 overtime loss to Sweden at the Junior Gold Medal game, made his long awaited return to the Sting lineup, scoring a goal and getting under the skin of the 67's all night.

Also making a return was former Sting defenceman Daniel Broussard. Acquired at the beginning of the year, Broussard was suspended eight games on January 6th for use of methylhexaneamine. He was a +2 in his return.

After a chippy, scoreless first period, Ottawa opened the scoring on a pair of early second-period goals. Taylor Fielding (3) and Tyler Toffoli (37) both put fluttering wrist shots into the back of the net, both of which J.P. Anderson would no doubt like to have back. Anderson finished the night with 34 stops. Ryan Spooner, playing his first game as a member of the Sting in his hometown, cut the lead in half in the final minutes of the period.

In the third, the two teams traded goals. Cody Ceci scored his 11th of the year with a blast from the point, but a couple of minutes later turned the puck over to Yakupov who walked in and snapped it home. Shane Prince (26) picked the corner on Anderson with just under six minutes to go, restoring the two-goal lead, and Ottawa never looked back.

Petr Mrazek made 40 saves for the win and as he had tried at the afformentioned World Juniors against the United States and last season against the Owen Sound Attack, attempted to hit the empty Sarnia net in the final minute. The puck rolled off of his stick a little, going far wide for icing. Mike Cazzola (7) hit the empty net shortly thereafter, a play which left Yakupov on the ice for several seconds.

No word yet if Yakupov was hurt on the play, as he had recently left his feet to charge at Marc-Anthony Zanetti, but he didn't play another shift after staying down and refused to come out for the three-star selection (Mrazek and Ceci were the other two stars).

Although there were a lot of scrums in the game (most of which started by Yakupov), only one scrap came out of the chippy affair. Ryan Van Stralen took on Justice Dundas, while Jake Cardwell was attempting to goad former 67's teammate Julian Luciani into a fight.

Now, Ottawa heads on the road to face the Barrie Colts and Owen Sound attack on Saturday and Sunday, while the NHL's All-Star Skills Competition and Game take place. With the Ice Dogs losing to Guelph and Battallion losing to Barrie, Ottawa has a four-point lead atop the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on each of the two trailing teams. Sarnia remains fourth in the West, as they head to Belleville and Kingston to finsih their three-in-three.

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