Sting Rally Falls Just Short As Kitchener Holds On For 6-3 Win
By Carl Chimenti
The Sarnia Sting made a valiant comeback bid but fell short as the Kitchener Rangers escaped with a 6-3 win in front of the largest crowd of the season, 4,408 in the 26th annual Finch Ford Lincoln Teddy Bear Toss, Sunday afternoon, at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena. A total of 4,128 bears were collected, bringing the grand total to 83,128 bears over the past 26 years.
The game was a tale of two games as the Rangers scored the first four goals of the game before a furious Sarnia rally, that saw them score the next three goals to close the gap to 4-3. The Rangers held on by scoring twice in the final three minutes of the game to seal the win. Sarnia’s disallowed goal in the second period that saw the teddy bears fly from all corners of the hive played a pivotal role in the game. Andrew LeBlanc, Sandis Vilmanis (Florida Panthers), and Kai Schwindt (Florida Panthers) with his first goal as a member of the Sting, scored for Sarnia. Jacob LeBlanc, Zach Filak, Easton Wainwright, Marko Sikic, James Barr and Duncan Schneider, with his first point as a Sting, since joining the team from the Kingston Frontenacs, contributed one assist each. Andrew LeBlanc was selected as the second star of the game. Karsen Chartier started in net for Sarnia but was forced to leave after suffering an injury. He played 7:23 and had 2 saves on 4 shots.
Nick Surzycia came in relief and finished with 19 saves. Kitchener out-shot Sarnia 27-26. Carson Rehkopf (Seattle Kraken) scored two goals and added one assist and was named as the first star for the Rangers and teammate Tristan Malboeuf stopped 23 of 26 shots for second star honors. Kitchener also got scoring contributions from Matthew Sop (1 goal, 2 assists), along with Antonino Pugliese and Justin Bottineau 1 goal and 1 assist each. Hunter Brzustewicz (Vancouver Canucks) chipped in with a pair of assists. Kitchener scored three times in the opening frame to grab the lead after the first twenty minutes. Rehkopf opened the scoring at 4:34, in the final seconds of a Ranger power-play. Sop and Luke Ellinas assisted on the play. Less than two minutes later the Rangers found the back of the net on an even strength goal from Tanner Lam with assists going to both Sop and Brzustewicz. Bottineau made it 3-0 at 9:13 to close out the first period scoring with Brzustewicz and Cameron Mercer assisting. Both teams ended with 8 shots on net.
In the second period an apparent Sting goal, let loose the teddy bears and while the staff was collecting them from the ice service the scoring play went under review and was later determined to be no goal due to the fact that the puck did not cross the goal line. Pugliese scored the fourth Ranger goal at 6:51 from Bottineau and Matthew Andonovski (Ottawa Senators). Vilmanis made up for the disallowed goal scoring a power-play goal with 6.1 seconds left with Filak and LeBlanc drawing the assists. Like the first period, shots were tied in the second period, with both teams putting 9 shots on goal.