Sting make playoffs with shootout win over Spitfires

The Sarnia Sting booked a spot in the OHL playoffs with a 4-3 shootout win over the Windsor Spitfires on Friday.

Sarnia Sting's Mitch Eliot (22) is checked by Windsor Spitfires' Curtis Douglas (39) in the first period at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network)

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There are big goals. There are really big goals. And then there are clinch-a-playoff-berth-in-a-shootout-for-your-hometown-team goals.

Franco Sproviero scored the winner as the Sarnia Sting beat the Windsor Spitfires 4-3 on Friday before a crowd of 4,136 at Progressive Auto Sales Arena.

“I had a disallowed goal (in the second period),” said the overage forward from Sarnia. “I was looking to the heavens a little bit, thinking, ‘What do I have to do to score a goal?’

“I thought that was honestly one of the best endings I could have dreamt of. … That was so special for me. I’ll remember that for the rest of my life.”

The Sting won the shootout 2-0. Hugo Leufvenius had their first goal.

Sproviero was mobbed by teammates after outwaiting Spitfires goalie Kari Piiroinen to bury the second goal.

“It was nice to see how happy my teammates were for me,” Sproviero said. “I love those guys. They’re all awesome guys and it was so nice to embrace them after I scored that goal.”

The Sting clinched seventh place in the OHL’s Western Conference with the victory. They have two games left – a home-and-home series with the Firebirds on Saturday in Flint and Sunday in Sarnia – but they can’t move higher in the standings.

Despite their loss, the Spitfires are headed to the playoffs as well. They wrapped up eighth place when the Erie Otters lost to the Guelph Storm.

The Sting needed a shootout to pull out the victory after the Spitfires rallied from three goals down in the third period.

“We’re a resilient bunch,” Spitfires head coach Trevor Letowski said. “We’ve been down like that quite a few times. We just never go away. We play 60. And tonight we found a way to get that point.”

The Spitfires have no games left. They’re one point behind the Sting.

“I give credit to Sarnia,” said Letowski, a former Sting player and coach. “Home game, they were waiting for us. I thought they came out (and) they played extremely hard.

“They’re fast and heavy against us and pushed us for the first two periods. We just kind of hung around and found a way. I thought our guys really responded.”

Piiroinen preserved the tie with point-blank saves on Leufvenius and Sproviero early in overtime. He finished with 32 saves.

Ethan Langevin made 25 saves. He came up big in the final minute of regulation when the Spitfires were pressing for the winner.

“We got the job done,” Sproviero said. “I think that’s going to help us for the playoffs. That was a roller-coaster of emotions. We know how important that game was. I think that’s going to help with our mental asset in the playoffs, no matter who we get.”

The Sting will face either the London Knights or Saginaw Spirit in a Western quarter-final.

Sean Josling of the Sting opened the scoring at 10:58 of the first period. He knocked in a rebound for his career-high 22nd goal.

Brayden Guy followed at 17:19 with his 19th goal. The second-year winger was back in the lineup after missing seven games with an upper-body injury.

The Spitfires were whistled for the game’s first penalty early in the second period. Four seconds later, defenceman Mitch Eliot scored off the faceoff at 2:37 for a 3-0 lead.

Rookie forward Jean-Luc Foudy began the Spitfires’ comeback in the third period with a breakaway goal at 2:06.

The Spitfires struck again when Connor Corcoran scored on a two-man power play at 9:23.

Sting captain Ryan McGregor tried to get that goal back two minutes later after slipping behind his defender, but Piiroinen stopped him on a semi-breakaway.

Foudy tied the score with another breakaway goal at 14:04 while the Spitfires were short-handed.

After a Sting turnover in the neutral zone, Luke Boka won a battle for the puck along the boards and found Foudy streaking up the middle. Foudy eluded Langevin’s diving poke-check for his second goal of the period.

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