SAULT STE. MARIE – The Sarnia Sting pulled out a wild and crazy game Sunday night.
Down 5-2 late in the second period, the Sting rallied to win 7-6 in a shootout over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in front of 4,395 stunned fans at the Essar Centre.
The win gave the Sting four out of a possible six points on their northern Ontario road trip, but more important vaulted the team back into fourth place in the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League.
Sarnia is one point up on Owen Sound for fourth spot and still holds a game in hand.
Nail Yakupov was the only player of six to score in the shootout. He was the first shooter. Sting goalie Brandon Hope turned aside all three Greyhounds shooters.
But it was the way the Sting fought back that was even more impressive.
Sarnia scored late in the second period to trail 5-3 after 40 minutes. The score stayed that way until the fireworks started with just under five minutes remaining in regulation time.
Ryan Spooner scored two goals within 16 seconds at 14:44 and the 15-minute mark to tie the game at 5-5. Spooner’s tying goal was his fourth of the game.
But just 13 seconds later, Sault Ste. Marie regained the lead when David Quesnele scored on a breakaway.
The Sting would not roll over and Nail Yakupov tied the game at 18:29 with a shorthanded marker with the Sting killing off another penalty.
Sarnia was then forced to kill off another penalty in the five-minute overtime forcing a shootout.
“I can’t really remember being in a game quite like that,” said Spooner, who now has 23 goals on the season. “The last time I scored four goals in a game was my first year in Peterborough when we beat Niagara 4-0.
“It feels good to get four goals, but the fact we fought back and got the two points makes it that much sweeter. We started off slow, but in the end got two points and that’s all the matters.”
Spooner did have a shot at five late in the game.
“I had a mini-breakaway, but I passed the puck back to Craig Hottot.. Maybe I should have shot.”
Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu wasn’t surprised with Spooner’s effort.
“That’s how skilled he is. Ryan and Nail took over in the third period and they couldn’t be stopped.”
Yakupov played despite a sore wrist.
Despite getting two points, Beaulieu was not happy with his team’s effort.
“I was disappointed with the way we played. We were very loose. Our defence wasn’t good and we didn’t deserve to win. But after saying that, there were games before Christmas we probably should have won and didn’t, so the hockey Gods returned the favour tonight.”
Hope was between the pipes after J.P. Anderson sustained a migraine during warm-up.
“Even though he allowed six goals, I was very happy with Hope,” said Beaulieu. “He gave us a chance to win.”
Hope said he was ready to go.
“J.P. was feeling under the weather so I knew I might play. Sault Ste. Marie came out strong and got the led, but this team battled back like we’ve never battled back all season. It felt good to get the two points.
As for the shootout, Hope said, “I usually face 25 or so breakaways at every practice to be prepared for shootouts. The one shot that hit the post actually went off my arm first. I figured (Nick Cousins) might try and go five-hole on me so I was ready.
After a slow start, Sarnia finished with a 38-33 edge in shots on goal, including 16-5 in the third period. The Greyhounds held a 5-2 edge in shots in overtime.
Each team had two power play goals while Sarnia had the lone shorthanded marker.
Yakupov had two of the six Sarnia goals and now has 25 on the season. Alex Basso chipped in with three assists.
Sarnia again played shorthanded. Captain Nathan Chiarlitti took the pre-game skate, but couldn’t go due to a high ankle sprain. Adrian Robertson missed his second straight game with a neck injury while Nick Latta was out with a shoulder issue.
Sarnia had 10 forwards and five defencemen to start the game. Hottot was moved back on defence in the first period.
The game was even more bizarre because the score clock was not working. Neither was the shot clock.
Nick Cousins, Ryan Sproul, Andrew Fritsch, David Broll, Carson Dubchak and Quesnele scored for the Greyhounds.
Next action for the Sting is Friday when they travel to Guelph to take on the Storm. Sarnia will play their fifth straight road game Saturday night in Saginaw.
Their next home game is Monday, Feb. 20th when they host the London Knights at 2:05 p.m. at the RBC Centre in the annual Family Day game. Tickets are on sale daily at the RBC Box Office, by calling 519-541-1717 or going online at Sarniasting.com
– Even though Spooner scored four times, he was only the game’s third star. Fritsch was first star (goal and two assists) was first star and Cousins (goal and two assists) was second star.
– Sarnia has now won back-to-back shootout victories. They are three-for-eight on the season.
– The Sting has won four of six meetings this season with the Greyhounds. They still have two more games to go.
– Sarnia’s overall record improved to 27-20-1-5 while they are now 12-13-0-2 on the road.
– Alex Galchenyuk of the Sting, who has not played a game this season, celebrated his 18th birthday Sunday.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.