Knights top Sting in thriller

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Now that's what a Sarnia Sting, London Knights hockey game is supposed to look like.

It was as wild a finish as any game in recent memory last night at the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre.

Knights forward Sergei Kostitsyn scored a breakaway goal with his team two men short with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Knights a 4-3 win over the luckless Sting.

"I think that's the happiest I've been this year," said Knights forward Pat Kane. "We were talking about it in the dressing room and it was probably the biggest win of the year for us.

"We're two men down, just hoping to get it to the shootout, when Sergei breaks away and buries it. You've got to be kidding me!"

They'll be talking about this one for a long time.

In recent years, the Knights-Sting rivalry hasn't carried the same intensity. They don't play as often, but with the Sting struggling and the Knights one of the most successful franchises in junior hockey, the oomph has been missing.

Not last night.

It was entertaining and intense.

The Sting have had trouble filling the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre this year. A crowd of 3,761 showed up last night. But with a few more games like this one, they shouldn't have problems bringing the fans back.

It began when Knights defenceman Ryan Martinelli took a hooking penalty. Then a bad bounce from the corner almost snuck in under Knights goaltender Steve Mason. Before the play began, referee Ryan Carroll had given Knights assistant coach Dave Gagner a game misconduct. Gagner looked stunned as he stood at the end of the bench.

"I didn't say anything," said Gagner. "I don't know what happened."

Less than a minute later, Rob Drummond took a hooking penalty.

"I'm thinking, 'Just stop the puck and keep it out of the net," said Mason.

With the Sting in control, the puck bounced out to the blueline where Kostitsyn forced the play and a Sarnia Sting player lost his balance. Kostitsyn raced in alone on Sting Sebastian Dahm, pulled him wide and shot the puck into the empty net.

The Knights poured off the bench onto the ice.

The Sting came into the game with a five-game losing streak. That streak included two shootout losses and a loss in overtime. After a good start, the losing streak is making Sarnia fans a little nervous.

The Sting didn't look like a team that was on a losing streak. They came out in the first period with lots of jump and looked like they intended to take the body to the Knights.

The evening was junior hockey at its finest. Sting players like Harrison Reed and Tomas Pospisil were flying. Kane though looked as if he had the puck on a string. And Kostitsyn finished the evening with the winner and three assists.

But by far the most outstanding player on the ice was Mason. He left Sting players shaking their heads time and time again.

Without Mason, this one was over early.

The list of larcenous saves was long, but the guy he frustrated most often was Mark Katic. His best being a leg save on Katic when Katic had the entire net to shoot at and then a glove save off Katic who was 30 feet in front of the net.

In the second period, Reed found himself all alone in front of the net. He whipped a wrist shot at the lower corner, only to have Mason snatch it out of the air with his glove.

Reed skated away his hands to his head.

And so it went for most of the night.

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KNIGHTS 4, STING 3 (OT)

Scorers: London-- Adam Perry, Pat Kane, Sam Gagner, Sergei Kostitsyn; Sarnia -- Harrison Reed, Trevor Kell, Mike Roelofsen.

Next game: The Knights play the Saginaw Spirit tomorrow at the John Labatt Centre, 7:30 p.m.


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