With nine games and just over two weeks remaining in the OHL regular season schedule the Sarnia Sting entered last week fourth in the Western Conference standings. In a week that would see the Sting travel to Sault Ste. Marie to take on a desperate Greyhounds team on Wednesday night and then return home for Friday and Sunday games versus the Ottawa 67’s (2nd in the Eastern Conference) and Plymouth Whalers (top seeded team in the West Division), respectively, Sarnia would have their work cut out for them.
Sarnia 2 @ Sault Ste. Marie 8
Sarnia pulled up to the Essar Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario knowing that the team only needed one point to clinch a playoff berth for the first time in three years. The game started well as Dominic Alberga opened the scoring for Sarnia with his 15th goal of the season deflecting Anthony DeAngelo’s point shot beyond ‘Hounds netminder Jack Campbell. In typical Sting fashion, Sarnia surrendered their lead just twenty seconds later as Maple Leafs’ hulking prospect buried a rebound over JP Anderson. Greyhounds’ Dubchak added the go ahead goal late in the first to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Sting had a brief sigh of relief as Ludvig Rensfeldt scored on the powerplay at the 6:44 mark of the second period until the officials disallowed the goal due to a Nail Yakupov interference penalty. No goal. A few minutes, defensemen Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller added two goals within a minute and a half midway through the second period chasing Sting goaltender JP Anderson from the net.
Brandon Hope entered the game in relief of starter Anderson and fared no better. Hope made nine saves on 13 shots but was not able to stop Andrew Fritsch (twice), Brett Findlay, and Nick Cousins. Charlie Sarault scored his 17th of the season in the third period for the Sting but the Sting lost 8-2 and would need to wait to clinch that playoff berth.
Sault Ste. Marie will return to Sarnia to face the Sting Friday, March 9th to complete the season series. The Sting hold a 4 games to 3 lead in action versus the Hounds this season.
Ottawa @ Sarnia
Sarnia welcomed the East Division’s top team, Ottawa 67’s, to town on Friday in what would be their second meeting of the season. Ottawa won the first meeting 5-2. Sarnia was (still) looking for a single point to clinch a playoff berth but the 67’s goaltender Petr Mzarek had different plans for the Sting as he turned away 40 of the home teams’ 41 shots en route to a first star selection.
The Sting continue to struggle out of the gate as Ludvig Rensfeldt was sent to the sin bin just over a minute into the opening period to put Ottawa on the man advantage. Standout sophomore Sean Monahan (2013 NHL draft eligible) capitalized on a pass from Shane Prince and scored his 31st of the season to open the scoring at the RBC Centre. Sarnia outshoot the 67’s 31-17 through forty minutes but trailed 3-0 after Graovac scored on a penalty shot and Prince added his 40th of the season to extend the lead against a undermanned Sting team. The trend of playing with a shorthanded roster continued against the Ottawa 67’s as Sarnia dressed only nine forwards and six defenseman. Captain Nathan Chiarlitti returned to the lineup but the black and yellow were still without injured players Alex Galchenyuk, Craig Hottot, Alex Basso, Adrian Robertson and suspended forward Justice Dundas.
Sarnia scored their first of the game 12 minutes 46 seconds into the third period as Charlie Sarault netted his 18th of the season on the powerplay from rookie Anthony DeAngelo and winger Nail Yakupov. Mrazek prevented the Sting comeback turning away nine of Sarnia’s ten third period shots to preserve a 3-1 win for the visiting Ottawa 67’s.
Plymouth @ Sarnia
Looking to salvage a few points in Sarnia’s final game of the week, the Sting hosted their West Division rivals, the Plymouth Whalers, in hopes of ending their two-game drought. Once again, Sarnia dropped an early 3-0 lead to the visiting team as Anaheim Ducks’ prospect Rickard Rakell, Alex Aleardi, and Mitchell Heard all added goals before the game was twelve minutes old. The game appeared to be out of reach early but Sarnia’s Ryan Spooner scored the home team’s opening goal at the 13:28 mark of the first period on the powerplay. Nail Yakupov and Connor Murphy assisted on Spooner’s 28th of the season.
Brandon Hope, starting in place of JP Anderson, played strong between the pipes during the second frame making several game-saving saves to keep the hope alive for the Sting. In the dying seconds of the second period, Dominic Alberga netted his 16th of the year from Sarault and Boucher to cut the Plymouth lead to one goal.
Sarnia continued their comeback push into the third period as DeAngelo scored 1:33 into the final frame to tie the game at 3-3 (assisted by Ryan Spooner). Twenty-seven seconds later, Nail Yakupov buried his 31st goal of the season from a Rensfeldt pass to give the Sting their first lead of the day. Plymouth did not roll over as Garrett Meurs tied the game up several minutes later. The Whalers would secure the win when Senators’ prospect Stefan Noesen recorded his 33rd of the year with 4:07 minutes remaining.
The Sarnia Sting failed to clinch the playoff berth and fell in the standings to 5th place trailing London, Plymouth, Kitchener and Owen Sound in the Western Conference. The Sting are tied with the Attack but Owen Sound holds the tiebreaker.
- The RBC Centre was home to plenty of recognizable NHL personnel this past weekend as Columbus Blue Jackets’ GM Scott Howson and Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman were in attendance to catch several 2012 draft eligible skaters on Friday evening. The Columbus crew were in attendance on Sunday vs. Plymouth as well.
- Alex Galchenyuk, who has missed the entirety of the 2011-12 OHL season, hopes to be cleared for contact in the final steps in his return to action later this month. Galchenyuk is projected to return for the final few Sarnia Sting regular season games.
- Rookie defenseman Anthony DeAngelo has found his groove in the OHL posting 2 goals and 7 points over his past 7 games.
- The Sarnia Sting have three home games remaining including two next weekend versus the Greyhounds and Attack on Friday and Saturday. The latter game versus Owen Sound could determine fourth place and home ice advantage in the OHL’s Western Conference. The final home game of the season takes place Wednesday, March 14th when Saginaw comes to town for their final meeting of the season.
- The Sting close out their 2011-12 regular season schedule on the road travelling to London (March 16th) and Plymouth (March 17th).
- Sarnia expects to have Alex Basso, Justice Dundas and Craig Hottot return to the lineup for next weekend’s games.
- Agent Igor Larionov was with his clients Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk Monday to do a photo shoot. Yakupov and Galchenyuk had some fun switching their names during TheFourthPeriod photo shoot.
Sarnia Scoring Leaders for the Week
Sarault 2G 2A
Yakupov 1G 2A
DeAngelo 1G 2A
Spooner 1G 1A