By DAVE BORODY
Photo by Metcalfe Photography
The Belleville Bulls edged the Sarnia Sting 3-1, Friday night in front of 3,278 fans at the RBC Centre.
It was the opening game of the season for both clubs in the Ontario Hockey League.
The Bulls took a 1-0 lead after the first period and held a 2-0 advantage after 40 minutes. Sarnia scored early in the third period before the Bulls iced the game scoring into an open net in the final minute of regulation time.
Special teams stood out as Belleville scored two of their three goals with the man advantage.
The Bulls also got a solid performance in goal from Malcolm Subban, a draft pick of the Boston Bruins. He turned away 27 of 28 shots he faced to earn the first star of the game.
“We didn’t generate much offence,” said Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu. “I think we had only 10 scoring chances the entire game. “They had five power play chances and scored on two of them while we didn’t score on our two power play opportunities. That was the difference in the game.”
He added, “They have a good goalie over there and he came up with a number of good stops tonight.”
Beaulieu says he’s not concerned with the lack of offence in game one.
“It’s tough to put together three balanced lines tonight when you have Craig Hottot and Bryan Moore out of the lineup. There are some guys who played a lot of minutes tonight, who might not play that many on a regular basis. But we still need to find a way to score goals.”
Defenceman Jack Kuzmyk scored the lone Sting goal after not finding the back of the net all of last season in 65 games.
“Lucky I guess,” said Kuzmyk when asked about the goal. “I got a nice pass in the slot and I’ll take that all day. I like to score goals even though I’m not here to score goals. It feels awesome.”
Kuzmyk felt it was a close game.
“Even strength I thought we were the better team. But they were able to capitalize on a couple of power plays. We need to be a little more disciplined.”
The only goal of period one came at 9:59 when Joseph Cramarossa of the Bulls fired a quick shot past Sting netminder J.P. Anderson from a sharp angle.
Belleville increased their lead to 2-0 at 10:50 of period two, again with the man advantage. Austen Brassard scored what turned out to be the game-winner when he backhanded home a rebound from close range.
The Sting was able to finally solve Subban at 4:40 of period three. Kuzmyk was left alone in the slot and he banged home a centering pass. Alex Galchenyuk and Charlie Sarault drew assists.
“We are trying to promote our defence to get involved with the rush,” said Beaulieu, when asked about Kuzmyk’s goal. “He moved in off the point and got into a good scoring area and got off a real good shot.”
The goal seemed to switch the momentum in Sarnia’s favour. The Sting controlled the play the rest of the period and had some chances, but Subban closed the door.
Sarnia lifted Anderson with just over a minute to play. They actually won two face-offs in the Belleville zone, but never got a shot off.
Michael Curtis of the Bulls scored into an empty net with 39.4 seconds to ice the victory.
Anderson was also solid in goal for the Sting as he made 24 saves.
The Sting roster is now at 23 players. The team learned Thursday forward Nathan Mater has decided to play for the Sarnia Legionnaires junior B team.
“He felt it was too much of a grind juggling school and hockey,” said Beaulieu. “It’s unfortunate because there’s plenty of local kids who would die to play for the Sting. It makes no sense to me.”
Hottot was serving the first of a three-game suspension he picked up in the final game of the playoffs against Saginaw. Moore is nursing a groin injury while veteran defenceman Alex Basso suffered an upper body injury in practice Thursday.
Next action for the Sting is Sunday when they host the Kitchener Rangers. Game time at the RBC Centre is 2:05 p.m.
“We need to compete and generate more offence. You know Kitchener has a real good team,” said Beaulieu.
Subban was first star with Kuzmyk second star and Brassard third star. Rookie defenceman Joshua Chapman was the Dickie’s hardest working player of the game for the Sting. Chapman was involved in the game’s only fight after decking a Bulls player with a clean check in the neutral zone.
With backup goalie Brodie Barrick, Sarnia dressed 10 players classified as rookies.
Olympic gymnast Dominque Pegg, along with ex-Sting Matt Martin received standing ovations from the crowd when announced prior to the game. Martin, now of the New York Islanders, presented Pegg with a Sting jersey while both took part in the opening face-off.
Tickets for Sunday’s game and all home games are on sale at the RBC Box Office, by calling 519-541-1717 or going online at Sarniasting.com
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.