Photo Courtesy – Tyler Brownbridge
By DAVE BORODY
WINDSOR – Rookie Daniel Nikandrov hasn’t scored a lot of goals so far this season, but his Sarnia Sting team-mates will be more than happy with the goal he scored Friday night.
Nikandrov scored with 12.3 seconds left in regulation time to give the Sting a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Windsor Spitfires in front of 6,122 fans at the Windsor Family Credit Union Centre.
Nikandrov took a pass in the slot area from Charlie Sarault and snapped a wrist shot past Windsor goalie, Jaroslav Pavelka.
“This is my first game-winner and it feels pretty good,” said Nikandrov, who recorded his fifth goal of the season. “Most important we were able to get the two points.”
He described the winning goal.
“Charlie made a great play from the sideboards. He has great vision. He fed me a hard pass in the slot and for once I didn’t fumble it. I was able to turn and get a good shot off and found the top corner on the stick side.”
Nikandrov came into the game with just one goal in his last 23 games. But it hasn’t been for lack of trying. In fact his line of Bryan Moore and Nick Latta was the best one on the ice for both teams.
“Yea, I’ve been a little snake-bit because over the past couple of weeks I’ve certainly had enough chances. On some of those chances I was left looking up in the sky wondering if the puck would ever go in. It was nice to see that one go in tonight.”
The win was doubly important for the Sting as they were coming off a lopsided loss earlier in the week in Sault Ste. Marie.
“The coach talked to us before the game about having a bounce-back game. I thought we played much better tonight. It was another division game and we knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
Coach Jacques Beaulieu was happy with his team’s performance.
“We played our hearts out tonight on national television. As I said the other night we are a young team with just one older line. We got knocked down in Sault Ste. Marie, but we got back up tonight.”
On Nikandrov’s performance, Beaulieu said, “That by far was his best game of the season. I put him out there in a lot of tough situations, including in the third period to kill penalties. It was tough, but he came through.”
Goals were hard to come by even though both teams had several outstanding scoring opportunities.
The game was scoreless until 8:29 of the second period when Reid Boucher of the Sting recorded his 50th goal of the season. He took a pass in the slot from Alex Basso and rifled a shot into the top corner.
Boucher becomes only the fourth player in the Sting history to score 50 or more goals in a season. Steven Stamkos holds the team record at 58, Ivan Novoseltsev had 57 while Jon Sim scored 56 goals twice in back-to-back seasons.
Windsor tied the game at 1:50 of period three on the power play when Remy Giftopoulos knocked a shot past Sting goalie J.P. Anderson from close range.
The Spitfires enjoyed three consecutive power plays in the third period, but Anderson closed the door.
In fact Anderson turned aside 31 of 32 shots he faced and was named the game’s first star. Pavelka made 22 saves for Windsor.
Sarnia finished one-for-five on the power play while Windsor was one-for-four with the man advantage.
The Sting returns home Saturday night to host the Oshawa Generals beginning at 7:05 p.m. at the RBC Centre. It is the lone visit of the Generals to Sarnia this season. Ex-Sting Justice Dundas will play his first game against his old team since being traded on Jan. 10th.
Tickets for Saturday’s home game and all remaining home games are on sale daily at the RBC Box Office, by calling 519-541-1717 or going online at SarniaSting.com
The Sting will also be home on Monday at 2 p.m. against the Plymouth Whalers in the annual Family Day Game. Tickets for kids under 12 are just $5 apiece while there will be a skate with the Sting after the game.
– Anderson was first star with Nikandrov second star and Windsor’s Alex Aleardi third star.
– The Sting won for only the second time in eight tries while on Sportsnet. The only other win was 2009, a 6-1 win over Guelph. Sarnia will host London March 8th in another Sportsnet game.
– Anderson now has a record 122 career OHL victories. He broke the old mark of 114 back in December.
– Sarnia improved to 31-22-0-3 overall. They moved into sixth place in the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League. They lead Sault Ste. Marie by a point, eighth place Saginaw by seven points and ninth place Windsor by 14 points.
– Sarnia’s road record improved to 17-12-0-1.
– Sarnia again played without Mike DiPaolo (back) and Taki Pantziris (knee). Matt Ciccarelli was up from Lambton Shores.
– The Sting and Spitfires completed their six-game season series with Sarnia holding a 4-2 edge.
– The Sting has 12 games remaining, eight at home and four on the road.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.