Do you hear the buzz? That is Sarnia Sting fans getting ready for the playoffs. The Sting played their last home game of the season against the Kitchener Rangers on Wednesday night, in what has to be called a great healthy rivalry. Both clubs have been battling and it seemed to be that Kitchener was one team that always had the Sting’s number. Wednesday night Sarnia looked to quiet the critics.
Over 4,500 buzzing Sting fans jammed into to the Progressive Auto Sales Arena to see the Sting face the Kitchener Rangers and this one lived up to the hype. This is the third time these two teams have faced each other in the last two weeks and Kitchener had gotten the better of the Sting in their last two meetings.
Lots of great opportunities for Sarnia but there were some dangerous turnovers as well. Connor Schlichting saved a goal by knocking it out from behind Justin Fazio to keep things even with no score. Adam Ruzicka would give Sarnia the lead midway through the first period. Ruzicka would split the defence and beat Rangers goalie Mario Culina to make it a 1-0 Sting game. This would be goal number 36 of the season for Adam. Rangers forward Logan Brown would answer that by going top shelf and beating Fazio and it would be all tied at one apiece.
Some penalties in the second period had both teams playing four on four hockey and Mitch Eliot would dish to Jordan Kyrou in the Sting end. Kyrou would go the length of the ice and make a great move in front of the net and beat Super Mario to make it a 2-1 Sting lead. But that did not last long. Logan Stanley would get that goal back rather quickly and again things were tied up. A great shot near the end of the period had everyone in the crowd thinking the Sting had scored but everyone one was fooled even that guy working the overhead sign as it hit the crossbar and bounced out. The second period ended in a 2-2 tie.
The bodies were really starting to fly in the third period, and Kitchener would turn up the heat as Kole Sherwood put the Rangers in the lead at the 5:16 mark, but hold on Nellie because Hugo Leufvenius unleashed a boomer from just at the top of the left circle and Anthony Salinitri got just enough wood on it in order to deflect it and beat Culina to make it a tie game. Hitting was hot and heavy as defenceman Kelton Hatcher was taken heavily into the boards, Many in the crowd were looking for a boarding penalty especially when he came away with blood from a cut on him.
The two teams went to overtime and three on three hockey, but that solved nothing, so it went to a shootout. Sarnia would first send out Drake Rymsha and he would score on the first shot, Logan Brown and Kole Sherwood of the Rangers would miss as would Adam Ruzicka and Jordan Kyrou for the Sting. Joseph Garreffa would hit twine for the Rangers and bring up a fourth shooter, Adam Mascherin of the Rangers would miss but Jordan Ernst would not. Ernst would unleash a great shot and beat Culina clean for the win. Jordan says he just had to make the right decision.
Justin Fazio was terrific under pressure as he came out to challenge each of the four shooters with great success. In all Fazio would turn away 30 of the 33 shots he faced to get the win.
The Sting get a big win with only two games left before the playoffs. Friday night they will travel up the 402 to play the London Knights and then swing up to Owen Sound for the last game of the season against the Attack.
Coach Derian Hatcher is very pleased with the way his team played, saying there are still some mistakes being made but all in all a great win for the club against a potential second-round matchup. With the playoffs starting on March 23, there are a few options for the Sting to face in the first round.
Is there one team Hatcher would prefer over another? Not for this coach.
Tickets are available for the playoffs at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena box office. Game one is slated for March 23 and game two on March 2, both home games. Game time is 7:05 p.m.