The Otters scored eight times in an 8-2 win, played in front of 4,651 at Tullio Arena, against a Sting club that allowed 10 goals apiece in losses to Sault Ste. Marie and Niagara earlier in the weekend.
The Otters (36-26-1-1), who have won four straight, capitalized from the start with four first-period goals.
Shawn Szydlowski out-battled three defenders to grab a loose puck and then fire a shot past goaltender Troy Passingham for the game’s opening goal at the 3:45 mark. Forty-nine seconds later, Mike Cazzola turned rookie defenseman Adam Pelech’s pinpoint stretch pass into a breakaway goal for a 2-0 lead.
Then with 3:27 left in the period, Greg McKegg scored his 45th goal of the season on assists from Andrew Yogan and Anthony Luciani to extend the Otters’ lead to 3-0.
Yogan recorded his first point in his sixth game since returning from shoulder surgery. It was his first point since March 3, 2010, the night he suffered a season-ending broken foot blocking a shot. Cazzola’s second goal of the night and 18th of the season capped the offensive onslaught with 21 seconds left.
McKegg followed with a power-play goal less than 2 minutes later – his second of the game and 46th of the season for a 6-1 lead. He passed Brad Boyes (45 in 2000-01) and Geoff Platt (45 in 2004-05) for third on the franchise’s single-season goals list and tied Michael Blunden (46 in 2005-06) for second. McKegg needs seven goals in the final four regular-season games to tie Cory Pecker’s record of 53 set in 2001-02.
Sarnia’s Kale Kerbashian scored his 33rd goal of the season 4:33 into the third. But Cazzola completed his hat trick and rookie Connor Crisp followed with a goal to cap an eight-goal night for the Otters. Along with Cazzola’s hat trick, McKegg led the Otters with four points (two goals, two assists) and Szydlowski had goal and two assists. Derek Holden, Luciani and Pelech had two assists apiece. Festarini finished with 29 saves. The Sting (22-34-4-2) have lost five straight.
The Otters are 10 games above .500 for the first time since the end of the 2001-02 season. They also kept pace in the battle for the Western Conference’s fourth seed and home-ice advantage in the first round.
The Otters are sixth (74 points) with four games left – two points behind fourth-place Windsor (75 points following a 4-3 shootout win against Guelph and one behind No. 5 Plymouth (75 entering tonight’s game at Sault Ste. Marie). Both teams have a game in hand on the Otters. London, who didn’t play Sunday, and Guelph are tied for seventh with 69 points. Each has a game in hand on the Otters.
- Victor Fernandes
Otters 8, Sting 2
Sarnia 0 1 1 — 2
Erie 4 2 2 — 8
1st Period — 1. Erie, Shawn Szydlowski 38 (unassisted), 3:45. 2. Erie, Mike Cazzola 17 (Pelech), 4:34. 3. Erie, Greg McKegg 45 (Yogan, Luciani), 16:33. 4. Erie, Cazzola 18 (McKegg), 19:39. Penalties — Campagna (S) hooking, 5:50; Kerbashian (S) slashing, 9:09; Cook (E); Crisp (E) roughing, 20:00; Flemington (S) roughing, 20:00.
2nd Period — 5. Sarnia, Nick Latta 9 (Kerbashian, Kuzmyk), 9:37. 6. Erie, Brett Thompson 42 (Holden, Luciani), 10:10. 7. Erie, McKegg 46 (Holden, Szydlowski), 11:24 (pp). Penalties — Kerbashian (S) slashing, 3:50; Flemington (S) roughing, 10:30.
3rd Period — 8. Sarnia, Kale Kerbashian 33 (Kuzmyk), 4:33. 9. Erie, Cazzola 19 (McKegg, Szydlowski), 10:40. 10. Erie, Connor Crisp 4 (Appio, Pelech), 11:53. Penalties — Zupancic (S) tripping, 8:37; Crisp (E) interference, 12:48.
Shots on goal — Sarnia, 11-12-8—31; Erie, 17-12-8—37.
Goaltenders — Sarnia, Troy Passingham 16-14-2-2 (37 shots, 29 saves); Erie, Chris Festarini 4-8-0-0 (31 shots, 29 saves).
Power plays — Sarnia (0-2), Erie (1-5).
Referees — Joe Celestin, Chris Carnegie. Linesmen — Fraser McIntyre, Jesse Wilmot.
Attendance — 4,651.
* Mike Cazzola, Otters (3 goals) ** Greg McKegg, Otters (2 goals, 2 assists) *** Brett Cook, Otters (solid defense)