February 11, 2007

Stung by Sarnia: 5 - 2

The Sarnia Sting came into to town having lost the previous two games on this road trip: a 3 – 4 loss in Peterborough on Thursday and a heartbreaking 5 – 6 loss in the shootout in Kingston on Friday. The last time these two teams met, in Sarnia on January 27th, Ottawa beat the Sting 4 – 1.

Sarnia player notes: scratches Christian Steingraber, Steve Reese, Jared Gomes, Danner Anger, Chris Mifflen. Parker VanBuskirk started in goal.

Ottawa player notes: Julian Cimadamore and Matt Ribeiro were today’s scratches.

Lines for tonight: well, between the penalties and the injuries, there was only one steady line for the afternoon. And that was: Liscomb, Methot, Bailey. Cowie, Kiriakou, and Lahey spent some time together as did Alphonso, Couture and McGinn. Nesbitt and Lindsay were lined up with various team mates.

Defensive pairings: mostly Joslin - Vojta, Grimaldi – Beard, Cuma – Demers with Sean Ryan thrown in the mix from time to time.

The 67s didn’t quite have the jump or the timing and they paid the price right away. Jason Bailey was called for boarding right from the get-go. The PK units of Cowie, Kiriakou, Joslin, Vojta and McGinn, Couture, Cuma, Grimaldi with Flueler as the final defenseman (with 3 saves) just about had the penalty beaten but with 21 seconds left rookie Steven Stamkos picked up a rebound and beat Flueler for his 36th goal of the season. Not a great way to start the game – down one in just over 2 minutes. Then Sarnia’s Matt Martin nailed Derek Joslin from behind and into the boards and was called for checking from behind. Ottawa managed only 2 shots on goal for the two minutes and both were stopped. Jason Bailey got nabbed again for hooking and Sarnia didn’t need as much time to take advantage. Stamkos got his second for the game by parking beside the post and getting the easy tip-in by Flueler to put the Sting up by two. Lukas didn’t stand a chance on either of those two goals – the defense hung him out. Sarnia was playing very aggressively on the fore check. Finally, during Ottawa’s third power play Jakub Vojta beat VanBuskirk in the top corner with a beauty from the point to pull Ottawa back into the game. Brett Liscomb got the assist.

The first period ended 1 – 2 for Sarnia with shots 15 – 13 for Ottawa.

Looked like the second period was going to start pretty much like the first when Brett Liscomb was called for hooking within the first 26 seconds. But he managed to provoke Sarnia’s hookee, Craig Voakes into taking some retaliatory action for the even-up penalty so it was 4-on-4 for two minutes. Thomas Kiriakou was called for hooking before the off-setting minors were done so Ottawa did have some penalty to kill which they did this time. Before the 5 minute mark of the period, Couture hit the boards hard in the Sarnia zone and had difficulty getting back into the play. He made it to the bench on his own steam but that was it for the day.

As the game just got by the halfway mark, Aaron Alphonso made a terrific play and was streaking to the net with the puck when he was interfered with. He went crashing into the net and then into the boards and was down for a long time. He finally made it up but went directly to the dressing room. That put two guys from our top line off the bench. Aaron was assessed a penalty shot but with the injury, Ottawa was able to choose a substitute and Jamie McGinn was the man for the job. Jamie skated in and neatly beat VanBuskirk on the blocker side to even up the game!! Ottawa then had some wind in their sails and was putting the pressure on. But they did it again – this time it was Mathieu Methot getting the call for holding. It took less than 15 seconds for Sarnia to take advantage. Chicago draft pick Trevor Kell restored the Sarnia lead with his 31st goal of the year. It looked like Flueler was screened on the shot. It wasn’t long after that Derek Joslin went to the dressing room. I didn’t see what happened but he had been taking a bit of punishment – was he hurt or was it equipment – not sure. Jamie McGinn had a great chance with less than three minutes left but he rung it off the post.

After 40 it was 2 – 3 for Sarnia with Sarnia outshooting Ottawa 27 – 22. Sarnia had also scored all three goals on 7 power plays.

Ottawa tried to make a game of it and had some great scoring chances but they just could not bury the puck. Sarnia on the other hand managed to take advantage of their chances. At 13:49 Mathieu Methot earned his 3rd timeout for the afternoon for a check to the head. Craig Voakes made Ottawa pay with his 38th goal of the season and put Sarnia up by a safe margin of 2. But to their credit, Ottawa didn’t give up. With Steve Stamkos off for slashing, Ottawa managed to get a face off in the Sarnia defensive zone and Flueler was pulled for the extra attacker. Despite some good chances, they just couldn’t finish. With the penalty over, Stamkos was sprung and got his hat trick with an empty netter with 29 seconds left. And that’s all she wrote!

Ottawa lost 5 – 2 to Sarnia even though they outshot Sarnia 39 – 36 with 17 of those shots happening in the third.

Stars for the game:

1. Steve Stamkos (Sarnia rookie with a hat trick and an assist)
2. Parker VanBuskirk (Sarnia goalie with 37 saves)
3. Jamie McGinn (1 goal)

Hardest working 67: Jakub Vojta.

Random Thoughts:

  • Both Joslin and Alphonso made it back to the ice for the third period – whew!
  • The refereeing was brutal. I won’t suggest that I know the rule book really well, and I have never ref’d a hockey game but even I could see how inconsistent this guy was.
  • Lots of banging on the boards – may have to check to ensure that they are still stable.
  • Let’s talk about penalties for a moment. Ottawa remains the lowest penalized team in the league (despite having the fourth most penalized player in the league – who has kept his nose very clean the last couple of games). Our PK is 13th in the league. Maybe we’re not so good at it because we don’t get so much real practice. I tested this theory by a quick examination of the stats. Plymouth is the most penalized team, they are in second place in their conference and have the best rated PK. London is the third most penalized team, is in second place in their conference and has the 8th best PK in the league. But then the theory breaks down. No point in pushing the envelope if we can’t handle the consequences.
  • Now about the PP: still stinks. Only 4 other teams have had more PP opportunities than Ottawa and three of those teams have scored more goals – anywhere from 19 to 39 more goals. No wonder other teams don’t worry about taking liberties with the 67s. It can’t hurt most of the time.
  • Despite all of the above, Ottawa really tried hard at times today but their timing was off and they didn’t get the bounces when they needed them. Sarnia’s goalie played well too although it didn’t look like Ottawa made him work all that hard. I think Flueler had the harder job today.

Well my Ottawa teams went 3 for 4 on the weekend (back-to-back wins for the Sens over Montreal – woo hoo!!). Fortunately for the 67s, their closest conference rivals didn’t gain ground on them either.

Have a good week everyone and see you at the game on Friday. Let’s hope for an Ottawa road win against Kingston on Tuesday.

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