SUDBURY – The Sarnia Sting suffered a 5-3 loss to the Sudbury Wolves Saturday night before a near capacity crowd of 4,815 fans at the Sudbury Arena.
The loss snapped a modest three-game winning streak for the Sting as their overall record dropped to 26-20-1-5 record in the Ontario Hockey League.
Sarnia has now dropped to fifth spot in the Western Conference. Owen Sound moved a point ahead of the Sting after their 12-0 romp over Peterborough. The Sting still has two games in hand.
The Sting never led in the game falling behind 2-0 after the first period and 4-2 after the second. They could get no closer than two goals in the final 20 minutes.
“We turned too many pucks over between the two blue lines,” said Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu. “We haven’t been doing that in recent weeks. We were trying to make plays that weren’t there.”
He added, “Our power play was good tonight, but our penalty-kill was very average. They scored a couple of power play goals and that was the difference.”
Nail Yakupov returned to the lineup after serving a two-game suspension and scored a goal, his 23rd of the season. But he left in the third period with a wrist injury.
“He’s got a bad wrist and couldn’t finish the game,” said Beaulieu. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow. We don’t know if he can play in Sault Ste. Marie.”
Another injury was not what the Sting needed. They went into the game with just 10 forwards and five defencemen.
Captain Nathan Chiarlitti missed his first game of the season after sustaining a high ankle sprain against Barrie. Defenceman Adrian Robertson did not dress due to a neck injury while forward Nick Latta was scratched with a sore shoulder.
With Craig Duininck out indefinitely with a foot injury, Sarnia was missing three regulars on the blue line.
“What can you say, we’ve had this curse hanging over our heads all season,” said Beaulieu, when asked about the latest injuries. “We just have to keep plugging away.”
The Wolves, who were missing 10 players, (although all 10 are not regulars), jumped out to their 2-0 first period lead with two goals 19 seconds apart.
Michael Sgarbossa scored at 16:03 knocking in a loose puck from close range while Josh McFadden got the second goal when he banged home a rebound after Sting goalie J.P. Anderson had kicked out two shots.
The Sting got on the board at 2:36 of period two on a power play when Alex Basso fired home a wrist shot from the right point. It was his ninth goal of the year.
But just 43 seconds later, Sudbury regained their two-goal margin when Nicholas Baptiste converted a centering pass.
The Sting cut the lead to 3-2 at 13:10 with their second power play goal as Yakupov fired in a wrist shot from the slot.
However, the back-breaker for the Sting came with just 15 seconds left in the period when Sudbury scored their fourth goal. A shot went over the Sting net, but the puck came off the back glass and right in front and was tapped in by Michael Kantor.
The referee waved the goal off, but after video review allowed the goal to stand.
“We thought it was a high stick,” said Beaulieu. “But those goals late in the period can by killers, especially after we fought back to within a goal.”
That goal turned out to be the game winner.
The Wolves extended their lead to 5-2 at 3:30 of period three when Sgarbossa recorded his second goal of the game and 36th of the season.
Brett Thompson scored Sarnia’s third goal at 14:14, his 25th of the year, but the Sting could not get any closer.
“We played okay during certain parts,” said Sting rearguard, Alex Basso, who finished with a goal and an assist.
“We had a bunch of scoring chances, but couldn’t bury our chances. When they got a chance, they scored and that was the difference in the game.”
Basso added, “We were short some guys and that makes it tough to keep the winning streak going.”
Sarnia finished three-for-six with the man advantage while Sudbury was two-for-three.
“On the positive side, our power play worked well,” said Basso. “We’ve been working on it in practice. We were getting pucks to the net tonight.”
Sarnia finished with a 38-34 edge in shots on goal.
The Sting will be in action Sunday night when they travel to Sault Ste. Marie to take on the Greyhounds at 7:05. Sarnia’s five-game road trip continues next weekend with games in Guelph and Saginaw.
Their next home game is Monday, Feb. 20th when they host the London Knights in the annual Family Day game beginning at 2:05 p.m. at the RBC Centre.
– Sgarbossa had two goals and one assist and was the game’s first star. Josh Leivo of the Wolves was second star and goalie Johan Mattsson third star.
– Sarnia’s road record is now 11-13-0-2.
– The Sting remains winless over the past five years playing at Sudbury with a 0-4-1- mark.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.