Hockey Costs

Lackluster effort costs Sting loss to Firebirds

The Sarnia Sting fell short in a measure batting game on Monday.

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The Sarnia Sting fell short in a measure batting game on Monday.

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They felt good about themselves after winning three straight and winning four of five, but their efforts fell short against the hottest team in the Ontario Hockey League‘s Western Conference.

The first-place finisher Flint Firebirds ran their nine-game point streak with a 7-3 victory in front of a morning crowd of 2,750 fans at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena.

“It felt like we were back before Christmas: losing one-on-one battles, controlling the stick, doing what we wanted,” Sting head coach Alan Letang said. “That’s the disappointing part.

“We’ve come such a long way over the last 10 games, especially the last five, to understand and realize how we have to play as a team and what makes us successful, and we’ve done that. And then tonight we throw everything out the window because it’s hard work.

The Sting has been shorthanded in several games lately. Key players are clocking in extra minutes and getting tired, but Letang refused to use that as an excuse.

“Effort is always effort and we need it every night,” he said.

Sarnia Sting's Easton Wainwright carries the puck against the Flint Firebirds in the first period at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., Monday, February 21, 2022. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network
Sarnia Sting’s Easton Wainwright carries the puck against the Flint Firebirds in the first period at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., Monday, February 21, 2022. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

The Firebirds (29-14-1-3) topped the conference with a 12-1-1-1 record in their last 15 games. The Stings (19-19-3-1) are tied at three for sixth place with the Kitchener Rangers and Owen Sound Attack.

The Stings and the Firebirds will see each other a lot this week. They will face off again Friday in Sarnia and Saturday in Flint.

The Sting started the three-game series by overcoming an early 2-0 deficit. That didn’t faze the Firebirds, who responded with four straight goals and then chased away goaltender Ben Gaudreau.

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“What disappointed me was the number of times Benny stood there for us and won us a game, and we as a group couldn’t win one tonight. for him,” Letang said. “That’s what disappoints me. They couldn’t gather around him to help him when he had a short night’s rest.

Gaudreau allowed seven goals on 18 shots. He was replaced early in the third period by Nicholas Surzycia, a recall from Georgina Ice of the Provincial Junior Hockey League who stopped eight shots in his OHL debut.

“(He) made some really good saves,” Letang said of the 17-year-old from Toronto.

Surzycia practiced with the Sting and dressed for a few matches while Anson Thornton and third stringer Dylan Grover were unavailable.

“He did everything we asked and he works hard and he fits in with the guys,” Letang said. “It’s a great experience for him, just to learn and to be here.

“We’re lucky to have guys like that. We are happy to have them with us because of their attitude and hard work.

Another recall, Easton Wainwright, scored his second OHL goal after the Sting lost 6-2.

Nolan DeGurse and Theo Hill had the Sting’s other goals. The Firebirds led 3-2 in the first intermission and pulled away in the second period when the Sting went flat.

“We didn’t make any jumps,” Letang said. “We didn’t come out with any kind of work ethic in a second. We were looking for pucks, we were shooting again. It was almost a training camp team.

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Ethan Keppen scored twice and Luke Cavallin made 26 saves for the Firebirds. Brennan Othmann, Gavin Hayes, Simon Slavicek, Ethan Hay and Sahil Panwar also scored.

REMARKS: Gaudreau was up for the OHL Goaltender of the Week award after going 3-0 with a 2.92 goals-against average and .917 save percentage last week. … A minute’s silence was observed before the game for former Sting striker Vladimir Nikiforov, who died aged 34 on Thursday. He played 15 games with the Sting in 2007-08 after playing 2½ seasons with the Barrie Colts. He also had an 11-year professional career… Former Sting forward Brayden Guy was officially named captain of the Guelph Storm. He was acquired from Sarnia at the trade deadline in January.

Sarnia Sting's Max Namestnikov chases down a shot while being defended by Flint Firebirds' Simon Slavicek in the first period at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network
Sarnia Sting’s Max Namestnikov chases down a shot while being defended by Flint Firebirds’ Simon Slavicek in the first period at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

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