The Soo Greyhounds got off to a slow start and just couldn't recover Sunday afternoon as they dropped a 5-2 decision at the hands of the Sarnia Sting.
The Greyhounds gave up two goals in the opening five minutes which came back to haunt them as they tried to open up a gap between themselves and the Windsor Spitfires, who are chasing the Hounds in the Ontario Hockey League's Western Conference playoff race.
Daniel Sisca opened the scoring for the Sting 1:17 into the game as he stole the puck from Greyhound defenceman Brad Staubitz and fired a shot past goaltender Kevin Druce. Not long after that, with the Sting on the power play, David Pszenyczny took a feed from Sisca and beat Druce to put the Greyhounds down a pair at 5:03.
Hounds defenceman Jordan Smith looked to rally his troops not long after the goal as he fought Sting 19-year-old John Hecimovic.
It seemed to work as Jeff Carter got the Greyhounds on the scoreboard later in the period with a point shot that eluded Sarnia netminder John Barrow at 14:44. The goal came while the Hounds were enjoying a man advantage.
Sarnia reclaimed their two goal lead early on in the second period as Joey Tenute scored a power play marker at 1:01 to make the score 3-1 in favour of the Sting. Sisca, who was named the game's first star, picked up an assist on the goal.
In the third period, the Greyhounds cut the lead back down to one goal as Brad Staubitz notched his sixth goal of the season at 4:29 to give the Greyhounds life and cut the lead back down to one goal.
With the Greyhounds looking for the equalizer, former Hound Colt King, who was sent to Sarnia in the trade that brought Travis Chapman and Reg Thomas to Sault Ste. Marie and also saw Matt Manias become a member of the Sting, sent a backhand past Druce to give the Sting a 4-2 lead at 17:28.
Then, with the teams playing four-on-four with just over two minutes left, Druce was pulled in favour of an extra attacker. The move didn't work though as Sisca, who already had a goal and two assists on the night, capped off a four point effort with an empty net goal to give the Sting the 5-2 win.
Hounds coach Marty Abrams was disappointed with the start his team got off to in the game and felt as though that was the major factor in the game, along with Sarnia's two power play goals.
"I think that's (the two early goals) what killed us. It makes you coach a little differently," Abrams said. "Take those power plays away from them and its closer. We're going to have good games and we're going to have bad games. I though we lost the game in the first period. Full credit to the opposition, Sarnia played a good game."
Abrams was also disappointed with the penalties his team took and feels that if his team continues to do so, it will be tough to beat good teams. He added that the effort from the team was there, but they had problems executing their game plan.
"You can't take penalties," Abrams said. "I thought the effort was there but we didn't execute our game plan. Until we do that we won't beat good teams."
The Hounds also played the game without the services of overage forward Jeff Doyle, who was suspended by the OHL for an incident in Friday night's game in which he hit Windsor's Steve Downie with an apparent elbow that caused Downie to be knocked unconscious.
The league will review the hit again on Monday and determine the length of the suspension. Abrams was surprised of the suspension but conceded that it's the league that makes the final ruling and interprets the rule with regards to such calls.
The Greyhounds, 28-31-3-1, now find themselves only three points up on the Spitfires for the eighth and final playoff spot. Windsor, who holds a game in hand, gained back a point on Saturday with a 4-4 tie in Saginaw.
The Hounds now head out on their final road trip of the season as the team takes on Sarnia on Thursday, London on Friday and then Saginaw on March 10.
The Hounds return home to cap off the regular season with games against the Saginaw Spirit on March 12 and the London Knights on March 14.
*** NEW GM IN SAGINAW:
The Saginaw Spirit announced on Sunday that Edmonton Oilers amateur scout Bob Mancini will be the team's new general manager. Mancini will join the Spirit in July following the conclusion of his duties for the 2004 NHL draft for Edmonton.