By Carl Chimenti
The Sarnia Sting made franchise history, winning their first ever Western Conference Finals game, beating the London Knights 5-3, in game 3, before the largest crowd ever, of 4,740, inside the Beehive, Tuesday night, at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena.
For the second time in the series Luca Del Bel Belluz (Columbus Blue Jackets) made franchise history for Sarnia. After becoming the first Sting player to score a Western Conference Final goal in game one in London, he became the first Sting player to score at home in the Western Conference championship series, at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena. The goal came just 27 seconds into the game and set the tone for the rest of the contest, as Sarnia was in control from start to finish.
Sasha Pastujov (Anaheim Ducks) led the way with a goal and two assists and was voted as the number one star. Ben Gaudreau (San Jose Sharks), had another great night in net for the Sting, stopping 25 of 28 shots and was named second star. Captain Nolan Dillingham picked up three assists and was voted as the third star.
Sarnia came into the third period with a 3-1 lead but that was as close as London would get as both teams scored two goals in the final period. Marcus Limpar-Lantz, who also had an assist, made it 4-1 with his third post-season goal. Ethan Ritchie scored the final Sting goal, it was his third of the playoffs, to make it 5-2 at 12:34, with the teams playing four on four hockey. London added a goal late in the game to finish off the scoring.
Marko Sikic added a pair of assists. Sandis Vilmanis (Florida Panthers) and Ty Voit (Toronto Maple Leafs) contributed one assist each.
George Diaco, Brody Crane and Ryan Winterton (Seattle Kraken), who scored in his third straight game, tallied for London. Sean McGurn and Logan Mailloux (Montreal Canadiens) had two assists each.
Sarnia led on the shot clock overall 30-28 and in the face-off circle 36-29. London went 1/6 and Sarnia one for four on the power-play.
It will be a quick turn-around, as Game 4 will be played Wednesday night, at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena, with puck drop at 7:05pm.
With a full house behind them, Sarnia came out flying scoring two goals and out-shooting London 14-9 in the opening period. It took all of 27 seconds for the Sting to get on the scoreboard. Del Bel Belluz scored his eighth of the playoffs as he put in a rebound from his back-hand past Bowen, with both Sikic and Pastujov assisting on the scoring play. Sarnia made it 2-0 on the power-play at 14:05. Voit from in front of the net lifted a saucer pass to Burke and he scored his sixth of the post-season. Voit and Pastujov drew the assists. The rest of the period saw a lot of scrums and a pair of fights.
Despite the fact that London out-shot Sarnia by a wide margin of 14-5, the two teams traded goals and the Sting went to the dressing room with a 3-1 lead after forty minutes. Pastujov showing some smooth hands put Sarnia up 3-0 with his fifth of the post-season from both Sikic and Dillingham. Later in the period the Sting fell into some penalty trouble, giving London a two man-advantage and Diaco scored his fourth of the playoffs at 9:15 from Logan Mailoux and Sean McGurn.