When it comes to shootouts, the Sarnia Sting has a sure-fire winning formula.
Rookie Brandon Hope (pictured) will stop the shots and another rookie, Alex Galchenyuk will score the deciding goal. The twosome helped the Sting score an important 4-3-shootout victory over the eighth-ranked team in the country, the Owen Sound Attack, Wednesday night before a stunned crowd of 2.027 at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre.
The victory marked the second time in four tries Sarnia has defeated Owen Sound this season. The two clubs will not play again. The win also bumped Sarnia back above the .500 mark at 11-10-3-0 in the Ontario Hockey League.
Hope stopped all three Owen Sound shooters in the shootout, including snipers Joey Hishon and Garrett Hishon while Galachenyuk was the only one of the three Sarnia shooters to score, ironically on the final shot.
Hope and Galachenyuk worked their same magic in Sarnia’s only other shootout victory in Belleville two weeks ago. “I just take them one shot at a time,” said Hope when asked about stopping all seven shots in the two shootouts. “I try and force them to deke. I got a little lucky when Hishon’s shot went off the post. You try and be in the best possible position.”
He added, “We needed to get the extra point. My defence was stellar in front of me. We had a couple of scraps by our defence and that got us going.”
When asked about the Sting coming back in recent games to win, Hope offered this assessment. “We have a will to win. There’s some young guys who play with passion and we have good team chemistry.”
Galchenyuk described this winning goal. “I was thinking I was going to go to my backhand, (like in Belleville). But I saw the goalie moving to his right so I saw an opening and went back to my forehand and took a wrist shot.”
He added, “the shootout goals are different because they are very important to get the goal to help the team win.”
Three times in last night’s game the Sting fell behind by a goal only to claw back and tie the game.
“They are a resilient group,” said Sting head coach Dave MacQueen. “I think we know we can score goals and don’t have to win game 2-1. We keep preaching don’t be afraid of success. We’ve played some good teams recently and pulled out victories. Hopefully we can take the next step.”
MacQueen felt his team rebounded after a slow start. “The first period we were back on our heels. That was partly due to two penalties in the first five minutes. We couldn’t establish any flow and some guys weren’t playing much. But we held the fort and got out of the period 1-1.
“As the second period wore on we were very good. We had them running around a bit in their own end and with a couple of bounces, could have been ahead. But even when they got ahead in the third period, we didn’t give them a lot five-on-five and kept battling.”
He added, “there wasn’t much in overtime, but we felt good going into the shootout. That’s seven saves in a row for Hope in shootouts. That’s not bad. I liked the fact the young guys don’t get discouraged and the older guys were doing a great job on the bench saying the right things.”
The Sting took a penalty 30 seconds into the game and the Attack made them pay.
Bobby Mignardi opened the scoring at 2:13 on Owen Sound’s sixth shot as he banged home a rebound.
After Sarnia killed off a penalty, Owen Sound made three straight trips to the penalty box and the Sting made them pay on the third one.
Nail Yakupov of the Sting was left alone in front of the Owen Sound net. He took a cross-ice pass from Kale Kerbashian and calmly slipped the puck between the goalies legs. It was his 18th of the year.
Owen Sound went ahead 2-1 at 4:49 of period two when Jesse Blacker’s sharp-angle shot changed directions and eluded Brandon Hope.
But the Sting was given a gift at 9:45 when Tyler Peters was handed the puck at the Attack blue line. He skated in alone and drilled a slapshot into the top corner on the glove side for his ninth of the year.
Sarnia held an edge in play the remainder of the period had several good scoring chances, including two by the fourth line of J.C. Campagna, Garrett Hooey and Nick Latta.
Owen Sound scored their second power play goal of the game at 4:54 of period three to go ahead 3-2 as Andrew Fritsch scored on a rebound after a point shot was stopped by Hope.
But for the third time Sarnia tied the game at 11:10 when Kerbashian’s shot from the face-off hit someone in front and found the back of the net. It was his 15th of the season.
Owen Sound finished with a 40-30 edge in shots on goal.
The Sting resume action Friday night when they travel to Kitchener to meet the Rangers for the first time this season. Kitchener is ranked 10th in the CHL in this week’s rankings.
Sarnia is home Saturday night when they host the Oshawa Generals for their one and only trip to Sarnia. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at the RBC Centre.
– Hope was first star with Fritsch of the Attack second star and Yakupov third star.
– Sarnia was one-for-three on the power play and Owen Sound two-for-four. All three of the Sting power plays came in the first period.
– Sarnian Curtis Crombeen is out of the lineup again for Owen Sound. Crombeen, The Attack’s first round draft pick a year ago, continues to have knee issues. He missed the second half of last season after injuring his knee at the World Under-17 Tournament. Crombeen has played in only seven games this season.
– Owen Sound wore their third jerseys for the first time against the Sting this season. The sweaters read Owen Sound Mercury’s in honour of the team that won the Allan Cup senior A Canadian title in the early 1950s.
– Scratched for the Sting were defencemen Anthony Donati (knee) and Ryan Zupancic (numbers).
– The league announced this week stiffer penalties for players who fight at the drop of the puck when each period begins. League officials saw the notion of players premeditating fights when a period begins is beginning out of hand. Players can face an automatic suspension and the teams fined.
– Sarnia is 4-5-3-0 on the road.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website. Photos courtesy of Metcalfe Photography.