By DAVE BORODY
Photos by Metcalfe Photography
The Sarnia Sting dropped a 5-4 decision to the Plymouth Whalers in Ontario Hockey League action, Sunday afternoon at the RBC Centre.
The loss was Sarnia’s third in a row and leaves them tied with Owen Sound for fourth place in the Western Conference. Each team has 69 points with both teams having six games remaining.
Plymouth came out hard in the opening and jumped out to what appeared to be a commanding 3-0 lead by the 12-minute mark.
But the Sting cut the lead to 3-1 after the first period and closed to within a goal at 3-2 after 40 minutes. Sarnia then scored two quick goals early in period three to take their first and only lead of the game at 4-3.
However the Whalers tied the game two minutes after Sarnia’s fourth goal and then scored the game winner with just over four minutes left in regulation time.
“We started slow,” admitted Sting associate coach, Trevor Letowski. “They are a good hockey team over there. We knew they would come out hard and they did. But we battled back and gave ourselves a chance to win.
“But we gave up far too many scoring chances. (Brandon) Hope made some big saves, especially in the second period and gave us a chance to win. But we came up a little short in the end.”
The Sting again was forced to play with just nine forwards because of injuries and suspension.
“Better now than two weeks from now,” said Letowski, when asked about only nine forwards. “It’s hard with three lines. We are pushing guys to play big minutes. We are trying to get the guys some days off. But they are young and we have high expectations.”
Two of the five Plymouth goals were the result of turnovers leading to breakaways.
“Mistakes happen and that’s hockey,” said Letowski. “They (Plymouth) know how to pounce on pucks. They are a hungry team trying to get the number one seed. They play with tempo and mistakes are going to happen.”
Plymouth opened the scoring at 5:09 when Rickard Rakell scored on a breakaway. The lead went to 2-0 at 8:37 when Alex Aleardi scored on a shorthanded breakaway. Mitchell Heard banged home a rebound at 11:43 to give the Whalers a 3-0 advantage.
The Sting hit the score sheet at 13:28 on the power play. Ryan Spooner was sent into the clear on a nice pass from Nail Yakupov and Spooner made no mistake picking the top corner for his 28th goal of the year.
Hope was the star of the game for 10 minutes in the second period as he kept the Sting within striking distance making several outstanding saves.
The Sting cut the lead to 3-2 in the final minute of period two, again on the power play when Domenic Alberga deflected a shot from Charlie Sarault into the top of the net.
Sarnia tied the game at 1:33 of period three when Anthony DeAngelo took a pass from Spooner in the slot and he drilled a wrist shot into the top corner for his sixth goal of the year.
Twenty-seven seconds later Sarnia went up 4-3 when Yakupov converted a centering pass for Ludvig Rensfeldt for his 31st goal of the year.
After Brett Thompson was robbed by Whalers goalie Scott Wedgwood on a goalmouth pass, Plymouth tied the game at 4:13 when Garrett Meurs lifted a backhand over Hope.
The teams played even after that until the 15:53 mark when Stefan Noesen knocked in a rebound from close range.
Sarnia finished with a 34-33 edge in shots on goal, including 21-11 in the third period.
“We started slow, but after that we outplayed them in the second and third periods,” said Spooner, who had a goal and an assist and was the game’s second star.
“We made some mistakes and have to bare down. It was tough fighting back to go up by a goal in the third period and then not hold the lead. We need to buckle down and play better defensively in the playoffs.”
Sarnia finished two-for-four with the man advantage while Plymouth was zero-for-two.
The Sting will be idle until the weekend when they play three games in two and a half days. It begins with a pair of home games as they host the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Friday night and the Owen Sound Attack Saturday night.
Both games begin at 7:05 p.m. at the RBC Centre. Sarnia will conclude the weekend Sunday afternoon in Windsor against the Spitfires at 2 p.m.
Tickets for both home games this weekend are on sale daily at the RBC Box Office, by calling 519-541-1717 or going online at Sarniasting.com.
- Rakell was first star with Spooner second star and Aleardi third star. Alberga was the Dickies hardest-working player of the game.
- Plymouth now holds a 3-2 edge in the season series. The teams meet in the final game of the regular season, March 17th in Plymouth.
- Sarnia has three home games and three road games remaining.
- Missing from the Sting lineup were Justice Dundas, Craig Hottot, Adrian Robertson, Alex Basso and Alex Galchenyuk. Dundas, Hottot and Basso should be back this weekend.
- Sarnia is now 18-9-1-3 on home ice.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.