Sting see victory against rival Plymouth Whalers Wednesday night, get set for New Year’s Eve game with London

The Sarnia Sting started the second half of their season on a winning note Wednesday night.
The Sting scored two unanswered goals in the third period to defeat the Plymouth Whalers 4-2 in front of 2,711
spectators at the RBC Centre.
The win puts the Sting back to the .500 in the Ontario Hockey League at 15-15-3-1 at exactly the midway point of theseason.
Three of Sarnia’s rookies played a key role in the victory.
Alex Galchenyuk had a goal and two assists and was named the game’s first star. Nail Yakupov scored the winning goalwith a bullet-like slapshot that Whalers goalie Scott Wedgewood is still looking for while goalie Brandon Hope got alast-second start and played a solid game.
Sting head coach Dave MacQueen was pleased with his team’s effort.“Overall it was a pretty solid performance. Early in the game we were very good with a lot of energy. But they scoreda couple of goals and it took the wind out of our sails. But the rest of the way we were outstanding down low in theirzone, protecting the puck and also cycling the puck.
“We made a couple of poor decisions in our end that resulted in goals, but overall we kept the turnovers down, we gotsome good saves from our goalie and we blocked a number of shots.”
Although averaging a point a game this year, Galchenyuk had not scored in 12 games. That came to a quick end as heopened the scoring three minutes into the first period when he deposited a rebound into the top corner of the net forhis 10th of the year.
“I was happy to see that one go in,” said Galchenyuk. “It’s been a little frustrating, but I tried not to dwell
on it. I knew if I kept working hard I would get rewarded and I did tonight.”On finishing with a three-point game, Galchenyuk said, “that’s nice too, but it was more important to get the twopoints tonight and we did that. Plymouth is a good skating team and it was a face-paced game.”
The Whalers bounced back with a pair of goals as James Livingston scored a power play at 8:03 and Max Iafrate scored at14:01.
Sarnia scored the only goal of period two at 7:41 when Brett Ritchie notched his 11th goal of the season banging homehis own rebound.
Ritchie was named the game’s second star and according to MacQueen, played one of his best games of the season.
“We know Brett is not a finesse player and he has to take the puck to the net and be tough down low. He was in a bitof a funk early in the season, but the last month or so has played solid. Tonight he was outstanding especially down lowand working the puck. When he plays like that he’s every effective.”
What turned out to be the winning goal came at 4:58 of the third period when Yakupov scored his team-high 23rd of theseason. He took a long cross-ice pass from Daniel Broussard just instead the Whalers blue line and drilled a slapshotinto the top scorer on the glove side.
MacQueen was asked to describe the goal.“It’s kind of funny because the line was gassed and I was yelling for them to dump the puck in deep and get off. ButAlex made a nice play to Broussard in the neutral zone. We’ve told our defence to support the attack when they can. Heskated over the blue line and fed a nice pass to Nail who got off the one-timer. He has a great one-timer and was set upto quick it off quickly.”
Sarnia went ahead 4-2 at 9:49 when Brandon Francisco snapped a 15-game goal-less drought when he tipped home a pass fromTyler Peters. It was his ninth goal of the year.
“We preach driving to the net and that’s what Brandon did on that goal,” said MacQueen. “Peters made a greatpass and Brandon was able to re-direct the pass into the net. The goal should make him feel good and be better for thenext game.”
Hope, who was forced to play after John Cullen became ill just prior to the opening face-off, turned aside 30 shots andwas the game’s third star. Wedgewood made 26 saves for Plymouth.
MacQueen says the win is nice, but it’s just the start.“This Western Conference is going to go right down to the wire because there’s so much parity. There’s too manygood teams for eight teams to run away and hide from two others. But we can’t win two or three and then lose two orthree. We need to string a few wins together and go 7-3 or 8-2 over a 10-game stretch.”
He added, “A lot of what goes on may be determined by what happens at the trade deadline, (Jan. 10).The Sting returns to action Friday when they host the London Knights in the annual New Year’s Eve game beginning at 4:05 p.m. It will be the first visit of the season by the Knights to Sarnia this season.
STING NOTES
–    Wednesday’s game was the first of six meetings over the next five weeks between Sarnia and Plymouth.
–    The Sting played without four regulars as defencemen Joe Rogalski and Brent Sullivan are injured while Nick Latta andGarrett Hooey are away at international tournaments. Latta played for Germany at the world junior tournament in Buffalo.They lost 5-1 to Finland.
–    Sarnia was zero-for-three on the power play and Plymouth one-for-five.
–    Sarnia improved to 10-7-0-1 on home ice.
–    Galachenyuk, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, says he’s learned a lot the first half of the season.“The speed is faster and the goals don’t come as easy as major midget. You have to shoot more accurately. I thinkI’m learning to play more two-way hockey and play at both ends of the rink.”
– Former Sting forward Brandon Mashinter played his first National Hockey League game Wednesday night for the San JoseSharks. He signed with the Sharks as a free agent.

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