Do you believe in miracles? Yes!
Christmas came a week early for the Sarnia Sting Saturday night after pulling off a dramatic, come from behind win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Tyler Peters scored in overtime to cap the comeback to post a 5-4 victory that sent home 2,723 fans in a festive mood from the RBC Centre.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sting and leaves them with a 14-15-3-1 record in the Ontario Hockey League as they head into the Christmas Break.
Sarnia appeared headed for their fifth straight loss before Kale Kerbashian scored a shorthanded goal, his second shorthanded goal of the game with 35.5 seconds left in regulation time to force overtime.
Peters scored on a power play at 2:36 of the five-minute overtime as he drilled home a high slapshot from the right point.
He described his 14th goal of the season. “We got a power play and I had one opportunity that the goalie stopped. But we gained control of the puck and Alex Galchenyuk and I were passing the puck back and forth. He fed me with a nice soft pass and I just let it go and it beat the goalie high on the glove side.
“It felt great when I saw the puck go in. Anytime you score in overtime it’s an awesome feeling because you know it’s for a win.”
And after losing four in a row, Peters said, “this win is huge. We’ve been on a bit of a skid of late. This is going to be a big confidence builder for us. Now we have to build off of it after we come back from the break.”
The game was close from start to finish as the teams were tied 1-1 after the first period and 3-3 after the second. “I thought they were ready tonight,” said Sting head coach Dave MacQueen, when asked about his team’s performance.
“You could tell before the game and between periods they wanted to win. But at times we played tight and that’s what happens when you are struggling and don’t play loose. But this was gut-check time and a good character win. It’s a big two points. But what a finish. We are down a goal in the final minute and take a penalty. We scored a shorthanded goal and then killed a four-on-three penalty for over a minute to start the overtime. Then we get the game winner on a power play. It was like 10 games wrapped up in one.”
Kerbashian led the Sting with two goals and one assist and was named the game’s first star.
“Kerbie was outstanding,” said MacQueen. “When he is focused he’s capable of putting a young team on his shoulders. Tonight he was a difference maker. Nail Yakupov also had a big game as well coming off his suspension.”
The Greyhounds opened the scored early in the first period when Nick Cousins knocked in a rebound off a point shot. Sarnia tied the game at 18:08 when J.C. Campagna notched his fourth of the year converting a goalmouth pass from Dean Pawlaczyk.
Then came a wild second period.
Sault Ste. Marie took a 2-1 lead at 9:21 when Ryan Sproul scored with the Sting two-men short. Seconds before the goal it appeared Brandon Alderson had been tripped, but no penalty was called. MacQueen argued the non-call and Sarnia was given a bench minor putting them down two men again.
But Kerbashian scored his first of two shorthanded goals at 10:48 when he stole the puck at his own blue line and skated in alone to beat Greyhounds goalie Chris Perugini.
But just as the second penalty was expiring, Sault Ste. Marie regained the lead when Vern Cooper scored on a wraparound.
Sarnia tied the game at 19:30 on the power play when Yakupov drilled home a slapshot from the face-off circle into the top corner of the net. It was his 22nd goal of the year.
The Sting had to kill off a four-minute Greyhounds power play to start the third period and did a splendid job holding the Greyhounds to just two shots.
But Sault Ste. Marie took their fourth lead of the game at 12:43 when Brett Thompson poked home a loose puck. The goal was reviewed for several minutes before it was allowed.
Sarnia pulled their goalie with just over a minute left, but appeared doomed when they took a penalty with 52 seconds on the clock.
But Kerbashian took a pass from Daniel Broussard near center ice, skated in the Greyhounds zone, around the net and his wraparound backhand squeezed past the goalie. It was Kerbashian’s 21st goal.
Sting goalie Brandon Hope needed to make two point blank saves in the first minute of overtime on a Greyhounds power play to keep the game tied.
Sault Ste. Marie took a penalty at 1:54 of overtime and it took 42 seconds before Peters sent the crowd into a frenzy with the winning goal.
The Greyhounds finished with a 41-34 edge in shots in goal with Hope getting the victory.
Sarnia is now 5-0 against the Greyhounds this season with three more games remaining between the two clubs.
“I think we’ve just been a little bit better,” said MacQueen. “They are a hard-working team. I can tell you with 50 seconds left tonight I wasn’t sure we would be 5-0.”
MacQueen says his team needs some rest.
“The break is about rest and being with family and friends. We need to rest both physically and mentally. The first half of the season has been a roller coaster ride. We need to come back fully energized because the league takes another step in the second half.”
Sarnia’s next game is Dec. 29th when they host the Plymouth Whalers at 7:05 p.m.
– Kerbashian was first star with Thompson of the Greyhounds second star and Yakupov third star. After the game when the Greyhounds left the ice, Yakupov was back on the ice waving his arms to the crowd to get them to cheer.
– Sarnia was missing three players. Nick Latta has left to join the German team in Toronto as they prepare for the world juniors in Buffalo later this month. Brett Ritchie remains sidelined with a hand injury while Joe Rogalski missed his fourth straight game with a concussion.