Jordan Ernst scored in the fourth round of the shootout to propel the Sarnia Sting (45-16-4-1) to a 4-3 win over the Kitchener Rangers (43-20-3-1) in front of 4,537 fans at Progressive Auto Sales Arena on Wednesday night.
The win avoids the Sting from the season sweep at the hands of the Rangers, who headed beyond regulation for the second straight night, but once again mustered just a single point.
It was a tight-knit affair all night long between the two clubs, as they skated through the first period tied 1-1, then exchanged goals in the second period just 1:44 apart, then scored a pair just 15 seconds between one another in the third.
Shots on goal also shadowed each other throughout the night, as the teams were tied 11-11 after one, Kitchener led 23-22 after two, 32-31 at the end of regulation and were tied 33-33 after overtime.
Logan Brown, Logan Stanley and Kole Sherwood were the Kitchener goal scorers in regulation, while Joseph Garreffa earned the lone goal for the Blueshirts in the third round of the shootout.
Sherwood’s snipe was his 30th of the season, the second time he has reached the milestone in his career after coming off a 33-goal campaign last season in Flint.
Mario Culina (15-10-2-1) took the loss in goal for the Rangers, who round out their regular season schedule on Friday night when they host the Guelph Storm. Culina made 30 saves on 33 shots, as well as two more saves in the shootout.
Justin Fazio (36-11-3-0) picked up the win, also turning aside 30 shots in regulation and overtime and another three in the shootout.
The Saginaw Spirit (29-29-8-0) were also in action on Wednesday night, but swallowed a tough 8-1 loss at the hands of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
A first-round playoff matchup with the Greyhounds is exactly what the Spirit, Guelph Storm and Windsor Spitfires are aiming to avoid as they play out the remaining handful of games on their schedule, so the loss by the Spirit was a costly one in terms of looking to stay out of the eighth spot.
One of those three aforementioned teams will be the Rangers first round playoff opponent, depending on how their remaining games play out.
The Storm (29-28-5-4) remain in sixth place with 67 points with two games remaining (at KIT, at ER), while the seventh place Spitfires (vs OS, at FLT, vs SAG) who were idle tonight, boast 66 points. The Spirit (vs LDN, at WSR) also sit with 66 points but remain in eighth in the standings as the Spitfires have one more win.
In Sarnia, the first goal of the game came at 11:54 of the first period when Adam Rizicka scored his 36th of the season to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, from Jordan Kyrou and Connor Schlichting.
Before the period was out the game would be tied, however, as Brown notched his 22nd of the season and ninth as a Ranger to make it a 1-1 game, from Giovanni Vallati and Givani Smith, at 16:06.
Shots on goal were tied through the opening 20 minutes, 11-11.
As were the previous two meetings last month, tonight’s meeting was another chippy affair. The teams were skating four aside after each taking penalties and it was the Sting who capitalized as Kyrou registered his 38th of the campaign to make it 2-1 Sarnia, from Mitch Eliot and Schlichting, at 12:15.
Just under two minutes later as Stanley emerged from the penalty box, he was sprung on a breakaway by Vallati and cashed in, tying the game 2-2 at 13:59 to round out second period scoring.
Shots on goal after 40 minutes of play favoured Kitchener, 23-22.
The Rangers claimed their first lead of the night on Sherwood’s 30th goal of the season after a nice individual effort at 5:16 of the third, but the lead was short-lived as Anthony Salinitri once again squared things up, 3-3, just 15 seconds later from Hugo Leufvenius at 5:31.
The remainder of regulation would prove to be scoreless, as would overtime so the game headed to the shootout.
Sarnia shot first, sending Drake Rymsha (GOAL), Ruzicka (X), Kyrou (X) and Ernst (GOAL) to centre ice while Kitchener sent out Brown (X), Sherwood (X), Garreffa (GOAL) and Mascherin (X).
The Rangers were 0-for-2 on the power play, while the Sting were 0-for-2 with the man advantage.
Giovanni Vallati (KIT) (3), Connor Schlichting (SAR) (2), and Jordan Kyrou (SAR) (1) were selected as the Three Stars of the Game.
Logan Brown, Adam Mascherin, and Logan Stanley each wore an “A” and skated as alternates to Rangers’ captain Connor Bunnaman.
Kitchener’s next game is also their final regular season game, as they host the Guelph Storm on Friday, March 16 at 7:30pm for Fan Appreciation Night.
Regular season tickets to all Kitchener Rangers home games are $23.00 each for adults, $19.00 for children 12 and under including HST, and are available in person or by calling the Activa Box Office at The Aud, from Centre in the Square (519) 578-1570 -or- 1-800-265-8977, or by purchasing online here.
Kitchener Rangers playoff tickets are on sale now. More information – including how fans can purchase – can be found here.
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