By Carl Chimenti
The Sarnia Sting (33-17-5-3) were in control from beginning to end as they beat the London Knights (41-16-2-0) 6-1, in the finale of the Finch Ford-Lincoln Battle of the 402, Friday night, before a sold out crowd of 4,482, who came out in support, despite the massive winter storm outside, at the Progressive Auto Sales Arena.
Inside it was a storm of another variety as Sarnia scored once in the first, two more in the second and three in the third to even their record to 2-2-1-1 against the London Knights. Among the six goals, three came with the man-advantage, as the power-play unit continued to stay hot with eight goals in the last three games.
Luca DelBelBelluz (Columbus Blue Jackets), matched his season high with four points which included a pair of goals and was selected as the first star.
Ethan Del Mastro (Chicago Black Hawks), who was chosen as the third star and Christian Kyrou (Dallas Stars) both had three assists in the contest. Ethan Ritchie and Ty Voit (Toronto Maple Leafs) contributed one assist each.
The three third period goals came from Sasha Pastujov (Anaheim Ducks), who totaled two goals and three points in the game and was named as the second star. Sandis Vilmanis (Florida Panthers) with his 16th of the year and Nolan Burke (Nashville Predators), who scored goal number 41, which was his OHL league leading 20th power-play goal. In total Burke had ten points in the six games this season against the London Knights.
Sting veteran goaltender Ben Gaudreau (San Jose Sharks) was near perfect tonight as he stopped all but one of the 24 shots he faced.
Sarnia overall dominated on the shot clock by a 41-24 margin and in the face-off circle 37-21.
On the Power-play Sarnia was 3/7 and London went one for four.
In a wonderful ceremony held prior to the game, the Sarnia Sting launched their inaugural Hall of Fame class that will be located upon completion in the southwest corner of the Progressive Auto Sales Arena. The first inductee’s which make up the class of 2023 are Robert Ciccarelli, who was instrumental along with brothers Larry and Dino in bringing OHL hockey to Sarnia. Joh Sim (1994-1998). Sim is the Sting’s all-time leader in both goals and points and Trevor Letowski (1994-1997) as a player, assistant coach (2010-2013) and head coach from 2013-2015.
Sarnia found the back of the net twice in the opening period but the first of two goals by DelBelBelluz was disallowed due to goaltending interference. DelBelBelluz made the second one count as he took advantage, jumping on a fat rebound and beating London rookie goaltender Zach Bowen at 10:13 on the power-play with Ritchie and Kyrou drawing the assists. The Sting out-shot the Knights 9-7 and went one for two with the man-advantage, while holding London scoreless on their only power-play chance in the opening frame.
The Sting scored two early goals in the second period before London got one back late. At 2:21 Sarnia scored a second straight power-play goal and once again it was DelBelBelluz who lit the lamp with his
36th of the year, finishing off a three-way passing play from Del Mastro and Voit. Sarnia increased their lead to 3-0 on an even strength goal from Pastujov, who scored his 34th goal of the year at 5:07. The goal was another three-way passing play, with Kyrou and DelBelBelluz, who notched his third point of the game. London scored a power-play goal of their own at 12:48 off the stick of Ryan Winterton (Seattle Kraken) unassisted. The Sting owned the shot clock 16-9.