Excitement surrounded the RBC Centre on Saturday night as the Owen Sound Attack came to town in a significant game between the fourth place Sarnia Sting and fifth place Attack. The winner of Saturday’s game would become the outright fourth place team and temporarily hold the final home-ice advantage spot for the forthcoming playoffs. In the previous three meetings, the home town were victorious in each game and the Owen Sound Attack held the advantage in the season series two games to one.
Sarnia continues to play shorthanded with injuries to Alex Galchenyuk, Craig Hottot, Adrian Robertson and Alex Basso testing the depth of the Sting roster. The black and yellow have struggled recently to get off to strong starts but the importance of tonight’s game must have really sparked the team as Sarnia came out of the gates strong attacking netminder Jordan Binnington early and often. Sarnia outshot Owen Sound 11-3 in the first period and the visiting squad was certainly fortunate to be tied at the end of twenty.
Sarnia opened the scoring as overage forward Brett Thompson buried his 29th goal of the season giving the Sting the ever-so-important first goal and sending 3,709 fans into frenzy. The fans’ excitement quickly turned to agony when Sarnia’s star forward, Nail Yakupov, cut into the middle of the ice only to be met by a charging Mike Halmo who knocked the Sting winger into next week. Nail Yakupov would lay injured on the ice before attempting to skate to the bench. Yakupov would eventually leave the ice on his own but appeared to be woozy in the process. The early report is the Nail Yakupov received stitches to his face to treat a few cuts but there is no definite report on whether Nail experienced a concussion. The star forward will be monitored closely over the next few days.
The Owen Sound Attacks’ penalty minute leader, Mike Halmo, received a five-minute charging major accompanied with the usual game misconduct. Mike Halmo currently sits fifth in OHL penalty minutes and is a repeat offender meaning David Branch and the league will take a very close look at this infraction. The hit on Yakupov was crippling to the Sting who have struggled with injuries all season but the Attack also lost their leading scorer in Halmo leaving them with a huge hole in their lineup as well.
The Sarnia bench rallied in the absence of Yakupov and Brett Thompson led the offensive charge scoring 36 seconds into the powerplay to extend the Sting lead to 2-0. Thompson’s powerplay was his 30th of the season giving him 137 goals in his OHL career. Defensemen Connor Murphy and Anthony DeAngelo earned assists on Thompson’s two second period goals. As the buzzer sounded, Sarnia found themselves leading their opponents on both the scoreboard and shot clock as Sarnia fired 15 shots to Owen Sounds 12 in the second.
In the third period, Sarnia added goals from Ryan Spooner and Ludvig Rensfeldt on the powerplay to extend their lead to a comfortable 4-0. Tempers continued to run high as Sarnia fans got a preview of what will likely be their first round opponents in the OHL playoffs. The clock wound down and Sarnia congratulated their netminder JP Anderson on his shutout victory as he turned away all 23 shots the Owen Sound Attack threw at him. Anderson’s shutout was his third of the season - all coming in a Sarnia Sting uniform.
Connor Murphy and Anthony DeAngelo continued their exceptional play in the month of March. Murphy tallied a career high four assists tonight giving him 7 goals and 23 points in 31 games. Rookie Anthony DeAngelo extended his point streak to five games as he picked up a pair of assists in the victory.
Sarnia travels to Windsor tomorrow afternoon for a 2:05pm start time and will likely be forced to play with just nine forwards after Yakupov’s injury Saturday night.
- Craig Duininck has just returned from a foot injury but he was seen limping after taking blocking a shot late in the first so his status will be one to watch.
- Sarnia has one home game remaining on Wednesday versus the Saginaw Spirit and will wrap up their 2011-12 regular season on the road in London and Plymouth next weekend.
- The Sting (73) now hold a 2-point lead over Owen Sound (71) and currently sit in 4th place all alone with one game in hand on the Attack.
- Sarnia and Owen Sound split the season series 2-2 with the home team winning every game.