By DAVE BORODY
KITCHENER – The Sarnia Sting dropped a 5-1 decision to the Kitchener Rangers, Friday night in front of 7,370 fans at the Kitchener Auditorium.
The loss was the second in as many games for the Sting who saw their overall record fall to 24-14-0-3 in the Ontario Hockey League.
Sarnia finished off a four-game road trip posting a 2-2 record.
The Sting never led in the game as they fell behind 2-1 after the first period and 3-1 after the second before the Rangers put the game away with two unanswered goals in the third period.
Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu was pleased with the way his team played, just not the outcome.
“I thought we competed hard and we had good legs. It was probably the most physical game we had played all season. Two of their goals went off our players. But we had our chances, but the gold medallist at the other end of the ice was pretty good.”
Beaulieu was referring to Rangers netminder John Gibson, who was outstanding turning aside 29 of 30 shots he faced. Gibson played his first game after returning from the world junior tournament where he led Team USA to a gold medal over Sweden.
Gibson was named the most valuable player at the world juniors.
“He made a couple of great saves tonight,” said Beaulieu. “He’s big, he’s confident and always seemed square to the puck. He also doesn’t get rattled. There’s a reason why he is a first round National Hockey League pick.”
Gibson leaves this weekend to attend the Anaheim Ducks training camp.
Kitchener opened the scoring five minutes into the game when Josh Sterk knocked in a loose puck past Sting goalie Knick Dawe.
Sarnia tied the game at 16:10 when Nick Latta deflected an Anthony DeAngelo shot over the shoulder of Gibson. Brett Hargrave also drew an assist on Latta’s eighth of the season.
But just over a minute later Kitchener took the lead for good when defenceman Evan McEneneny scored on a wrist shot from the top of the slot.
The Sting thought they had tied the game at 18:04 when Reid Boucher knocked in a pass out. The official closest to the net signalled the goal good, but the back referee said Boucher made contact with the goalie and disallowed the goal.
“The referee said our guy hit the goalie before the puck crossed the line. But we watched the tape and clearly the puck was in before any contact was made. Like I said the other night, there’s four eyes out there now. Maybe we need six,” Beaulieu said.
Sarnia outplayed Kitchener in period two and had the better scoring chances, but Gibson made three wonderful glove-hand saves.
The Rangers extended their lead to 3-1 with just under two minutes remaining in the period when Brent Pedersen deflected home a point shot.
Kitchener put the game away in the third period as Pederson got his second of the night at 12:17and Justin Bailey scored at 17:24.
Dawe took the loss in goal for the Sting as the rookie faced 34 shots. Dawe is now 3-2 after replacing overager J.P. Anderson, who remains sidelined with a groin injury.
Sarnia was zero-for-four on the power play while Kitchener was zero-for-five.
The Sting played without their top two defencemen. Connor Murphy had surgery on his injured knee Friday in Phoenix and is out for the season. Alex Basso missed the game with the flu.
As for losing Murphy for the rest of the year, Beaulieu said, “It’s a big blow to the hockey team. But it’s all about Connor now. We want him to get better as quickly as possible,”
It’s expected Murphy will need at least five months to recover from the surgery. A year and a half ago Murphy had surgery on his other knee and missed the first half of last season.
The Sting was also without star forward Alex Galchenyuk, who left Friday for Montreal to attend the Montreal Canadiens training camp.
After four straight games away from home the Sting return home Saturday night to host the Ottawa 67s beginning at 7:05 p.m. at the RBC Centre. It’s Ottawa’s lone visit to Sarnia this season.
Tickets for Saturday’s game and all remaining home games for the Sting are on sale daily at the RBC Box Office, by calling 519-541-1717 or going online at www.sarniasting.com.
- Newcomer Tyler Hore played his first game with the Sting. The left-handed defenceman was acquired in a trade with Oshawa for Justice Dundas.
- Kitchener won all four meetings between the two clubs.
- Pedersen was first star with Sterk second star and Gibson third star.
- In their past three games, Sarnia has scored only one goal in each of those games.