The Sarnia Sting entered this past weekend on the tail end of a five-game road trip that witnessed them go 2-1 defeating the Barrie Colts (3-2) and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (7-6 SO) in close matchups but losing to the Sudbury Wolves (5-3). After a subpar January record that watched them go 5-7, Sarnia began the month of February winning three of the first four games.
|Charlie Sarault gets back on track during his birthday weekend (Metcalfe Photography)|
Quick Recap: Sarnia 4 @ Guelph 2
Friday night, Sarnia travelled to the Sleeman Centre in Guelph to face the Western Conference’s ninth place Storm. The Sting’s leading scorer, Charlie Sarault, was in the midst of a scoring slump coming into the game with no goals in the past ten games and only two points over the last nine. Charlie would knock the monkey off his back as he assisted on the opening Sting goal by Craig Hottot and potted the eventual game-winning goal halfway through the final frame giving Sarnia back-to-back road wins. Sarnia’s win over the Guelph Storm kept the Sting in fourth place as Owen Sound and Saginaw continued to chase them down in the Western Conference.
The Sting have continued to battle the season-long curse of injuries as Sarnia played without three veteran defenseman including captain Nathan Chiarlitti (ankle), Adrian Robertson (neck) and Craig Duininck (foot). The Sting’s fourth line was without hustler Nick Latta due to a shoulder injury. The number of injuries to key players on the Sting roster has been almost laughable this season and as the past weekend unfolded, Sarnia would soon find them losing two other key components. During the Guelph outing, the speedy and offensive-minded defenseman Alex Basso left the game with an upper body injury after a collision in the first period. The injuries did provide an opportunity for several Sting draftees to enter into the lineup including Davis Brown (3rd Round, 2011) from the Strathroy Rockets and Daniel Nikandrov (4th Round, 2011) and Mike Dipaolo (4th Round, 2010) from the Sarnia Legionnaires.
Quick Recap: Sarnia 2 @ Saginaw 6
On Saturday night armed with two busloads of Sting fans, Sarnia headed west to take on the Saginaw Spirit without the likes of Chiarlitti, Basso, Robertson, Duininck, Latta, and Galchenyuk in the lineup. Entering the game, Sarnia has fared well against the Spirit this season winning the four previous games. On this night, Saginaw took advantage of the depleted Sting roster and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period. Lead by the red hot Josh Shalla with four points that extended his active point streak to eight games (second only to Nail Yakupov’s previous streak of 19 points in 8 games), Saginaw would skate easily to a 6-2 game.
Defenseman Connor Murphy and Nail Yakupov would add third period goals but it was all that the Sting could muster. Unfortunately, the loss to Saginaw allowed the Owen Sound Attack to pass Sarnia in the standings as they took over fourth spot in the OHL’s Western Conference. The biggest loss for Sarnia was yet another injury, this time to heart-and-soul player Craig Hottot. The Sombra native left the game just moments into the first period with an upper body injury.
In the absence of the Sting’s leading defensive scorer Alex Basso (separated shoulder, 4-6 weeks) and do-it-all forward Craig Hottot (upper body injury, 2-3 weeks) Sarnia will need other players to step up in key roles.
Quick Recap: London 2 @ Sarnia 6
The Sting had a nice welcome back to a packed full RBC Centre on Monday afternoon in the annual Family Day game after going two and a half weeks without a home game. Playing in front of the largest crowd Sarnia has witnessed in over a decade, the Sting netted two powerplay goals before the halfway mark of the first period by OHL veterans Brett Thompson and Ryan Spooner. Another game without seven regulars, Sarnia’s depth players stepped up in a big way to take the lead against a strong London Knights’ team.
The Sting were able to get timely goals from Connor Murphy and Brett Thompson (second of the game) to maintain the lead against the Canadian Hockey League’s top rated team. Just past the midway point of the third period, 5100 fans witnessed one of the best OHL goals of the season as Sarnia’s Nail Yakupov retrieved the puck, circled speedster Knights’ forward Andreas Athanasiou before ripping a blazing shot through the legs of six-foot-seven defenseman Jarred Tinordi and over the shoulder of a helpless Michael Houser.
Minutes later with Sarnia playing shorthanded, rookie Daniel Nikandrov exited the penalty box and tracked down a loose puck to the right of an empty Knights’ net and made a swift move to elude the defender before tucking in his first career OHL goal (in his fifth game). The Sting’s final two goals capped off a great day at the RBC Centre in a gutsy win by a depleted Sting lineup. JP Anderson made 34 saves to earn his seventh win as a member of the Sting giving the London Knights their first road loss in 2012.
Upcoming Week Preview
Sarnia heads back out on the road to take on the Owen Sound Attack Wednesday night to determine fourth place and home-ice advantage. The importance of Wednesday’s game in Owen Sound cannot be understated. Sarnia has split the season series with one win a piece with the home team coming out victorious in both games. Wednesday’s game will mark the third of four meetings between the Attack and Sting. Reid Boucher (2G, 1A), Brett Thompson (1G, 2A) and Charlie Sarault (1G, 2A) each have three points in two games versus the Attack this season and JP Anderson has posted a record of 1-0-0-1 (both as a Mississauga Major) and has a 2.88 GAA and .924 save percentage.
Ludvig Rensfeldt continues to find the scoresheet since returning with his World Junior gold medal as he has accumulated 7 goals and 13 points over his past 14 games.
Ryan Spooner has buried 10 goals and 21 points in 18 games wearing a Sting jersey and has registered a point in 78% of the games.
Nail Yakupov had 22 goals and 32 assists entering February but has since returned to the goal scorer we witnessed last season recording 5 goals and 1 assist in five February games. Despite battling injury and frustration this season, Yakupov has improved his point-per-game pace from 1.55 last season to 1.79 this season.
Reid Boucher has only two goals and 5 points through 19 games in 2012 after starting the season on a tear.
Tyler J. Brown is still looking for his first goal as a member of the Sarnia Sting. Brown has seven assists in 18 Sting games after posting over a point-per-game for the Kingston Frontenacs.
- Only two players, Charlie Sarault and rookie Anthony DeAngelo, have played in all 56 games this season for the Sting (Stat courtesy of Dave Barody)
- The Sting has 12 games remaining in the regular schedule, seven of them on home ice.
- The Sting have a record of 6-3-0-1 in their past ten games and currently sit 4th in the Western Conference with 64 points, one point ahead of Owen Sound and three points ahead of Saginaw but with a game in hand on both teams.
- Charlie Sarault celebrated his 20th Birthday yesterday (February 20th) as Sarnia defeated the London Knights for the second time this season.
- On Monday, Sarnia wore commemorative red and white jerseys to support the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Jerseys are available for purchase by auction through the SarniaSting.com website.
Past Week’s Point Leaders (3 Games)
Brett Thompson - 2G 2A
Ludvig Rensfeldt - 1G 2A
Charles Sarault - 1G 2A
Ryan Spooner - 1G 2A
Nail Yakupov - 2G
Connor Murphy - 2G
Craig Hottot - 2G
Daniel Nikandrov - 1G
Anthony DeAngelo - 1A
Dominic Alberga - 1A