2018 Playoff Preview, Round One: Sting vs. Spitfires
It’s time for The Real Season.
After sixty-eight games and a franchise-record forty-six wins, the Sarnia Sting are ready for playoff action. Icing one of their best lineups in recent memory, the Sting are set to bring postseason thrills to what will no doubt be an incredible atmosphere at Progressive Auto Sales Arena.
The Hive is ready to rock.
In the first round, the Sting are set to battle the Windsor Spitfires. As defending Memorial Cup champions, the Spitfires do bring their fair share of playoff experience. But with a large roster turnover from last year’s winning squad, this is a different team.
The Sting held the head-to-head series this season, taking five wins to only a lone loss against the Spitfires.
Here’s our upcoming first round schedule below.
Game 1: Friday, March 23, 7:05 PM at Progressive Auto Sales Arena
Game 2: Saturday, March 24, 7:05 PM at Progressive Auto Sales Arena
Game 3: Tuesday, March 27, 7:05 PM at WFCU Centre
Game 4: Thursday, March 29, 7:05 PM at WFCU Centre
*Game 5: Friday, March 30, 7:05 PM at Progressive Auto Sales Arena
*Game 6: Sunday, April 1, 2:05 PM at WFCU Centre
*Game 7: Tuesday, April 3, 7:05 PM at Progressive Auto Sales Arena
Let’s take a better look at what we can expect to see on the ice come Friday night. We’ll check things out from each position and include potential “X-Factors” in this series.
Fans of Sting hockey have been treated to one of the most powerful forward groups in the league this season. Boasting three of the OHL’s top twenty-six point scorers, the Sting are led offensively by captain Jordan Kyrou, Drake Rymsha, and Adam Ruzicka.
Kyrou has had an incredible season, finishing third in league scoring despite playing twelve less games than the league leader. With 109 points in fifty-six games, Kyrou has consistently showed that he is one of the best young stars in the game. In a season that included winning a gold medal at the 2018 World Junior Championship, Kyrou is looking to cap things off in style.
— Sarnia Sting (@StingHockey) February 2, 2018
With trade deadline acquisitions Jonathan Ang and Michael Pezzetta brought in mid-season, the Sting have prepared themselves for the playoff grind. Using veteran experience from Jordan Ernst, Anthony Salinitri, and Franco Sproviero, the Sting have excelled offensively against Windsor this season. Look for that to continue.
The X-Factor: Salinitri. A homegrown Windsor native, Salinitri always comes to play against the Spitfires. Salinitri finished the regular season with fifty-eight points in sixty-five games played. Among those points, Salinitri had eight goals in our six games against the Spits. Salinitri could be a game-changer in this series.
These aren’t your Spitfires of spring 2017. But there are certainly a few skaters with major potential to cause some problems for the Sting.
Veteran forward Cole Purboo always seems to be in the right spot at the right time. Purboo led the Spits with forty-nine points in a full slate of sixty-eight games. Overage forward Jake Smith topped the list in points-per-game, putting up forty-eight in fifty-nine.
Curtis Douglas, brought in prior to the trade deadline from Barrie, is one of the most imposing skaters in the league. Eligible for this summer’s upcoming NHL draft, Douglas will be a Spitfires skater that the scouts are watching intently. Spits rookies Mathew MacDougall and Daniel D’Amico have also had impressive freshman seasons.
The X-Factor: Cody Morgan. A first-rounder in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Morgan was acquired from the Kingston Frontenacs in one of Windsor’s many trade deadline moves. Morgan hasn’t put up mind-blowing numbers this season, but if he can get his game in gear, the Sting will need to keep him contained.
Combining skilled youth with veteran experience, the Sting have iced one of the more interesting defence cores across the league. The Sting put five rookie defencemen on the ice across various parts of this season. But with longstanding OHL blueliners holding down the fort, the Sting had the best penalty killing group in the league. At an 88.5% rate, Sarnia was excellent when playing down a man.
Defenceman Cam Dineen was brought in mid-season from the North Bay Battalion. Known as one of the top rearguards in major junior hockey, Dineen has brought a whole new offensive dynamic to the Sting. With sixty-four points in sixty-five games, Dineen is a premier offensive blueliner.
— OntarioHockeyLeague (@OHLHockey) February 11, 2018
Overage defenceman Connor Schlichting only missed one game this season, and was consistently one of the Sting’s most reliable skaters. Schlichting displays tremendous two-way ability. Add in the experience of Theo Calvas, Nick Grima, and Kelton Hatcher, and the Sting bring a whole lot to the table. Rookie skaters Colton Kammerer, Alexandre Hogue, and Marko Jakovljevic have also had outstanding first-year campaigns.
The X-Factor: Dineen is one of the best defencemen in this league, plain and simple. Dineen can single-handedly change the outcome on any given night.
Windsor brings a young defensive group into this series. Only two of their defencemen, Zach Shankar and Thomas Stevenson, were born prior to the year 2000.
The Sting are seemingly designed to succeed most against younger defence cores. With even the slightest hesitation being the difference between eliminating pressure and giving up a goal, young defensive groups in the OHL playoffs can sometimes struggle. This will be an area where the Sting have to capitalize.
With rookies Louka Henault, Grayson Ladd, Nathan Staios, and Lev Starikov all seeing regular ice-time, the Spits will do their best to contain Sarnia’s offensive firepower.
The X-Factor: Ladd. A big-bodied freshman defenceman, Ladd was a first-round pick in last spring’s OHL draft. Brought in from Kitchener at the trade deadline, Ladd is being groomed to be Windsor’s top blueliner of tomorrow.
Fans will witness two of the OHL’s best netminders going head-to-head. Spitfires goalie Michael DiPietro and Sting goaltender Justin Fazio are two of major junior’s best.
Fazio finished the season as the league-leader in save percentage. Using his 0.918 rate, Fazio has both seen a lot of shots and stopped a lot of shots this season.
Aidan Hughes had a strong finish to the campaign and will continue to be the Sting’s reliable second option.
At the other end of the ice, DiPietro enters the series as the OHL’s leader in regular season shutouts. A prospect of the Vancouver Canucks, DiPietro is a well known commodity in the circles of junior hockey. If the Spitfires are to hold a chance of turning this into an extended series, it will be because of DiPietro.
We’ll see you at The Hive on Friday night! At last, The Real Season is here. #BelieveTheBuzz.
Fans can secure their seats for the playoffs by calling the Mainstreet Credit Union Sarnia Sting Box Office at 519–541-1717 or by checking out the link below.
Game 1: Friday, March 23 at 7:05 PM
Game 2: Saturday, March 24 at 7:05 PM