Photography by Metcalfe Photography
By DAVE BORODY
Just when you think Nail Yakupov can’t bring the fans out of their seats anymore, think again.
Yakupov scored on a breakaway with 3.7 seconds left to give the Sarnia Sting a come-from-behind 5-4 win over the Guelph Storm, Saturday night in front of 3,319 joyous fans at the RBC Centre.
Yakupov took a pass at center ice, skated between two Storm defencemen and fired a low shot between the legs of goalie Garret Sparks for his second goal of the night and 30th of the season.
“I was happy to score and happy to win the game,” said Yakupov, who a year and a half ago couldn’t speak more than three words on English.
“When I saw we got the puck in our end, there was 10 seconds on the clock. That would be enough time to score. Somebody, I don’t know who, gave me a nice pass at center ice. I was thinking about shooting all the time because that is my work.”
Yakupov becomes the first Sting player to hit the 30-goal plateau this season.
“He’s a special player, no doubt about that,” said Sting head coach, Jacques Beaulieu, when asked about Yakupov.
“If there’s anybody you want to have the puck with 10 seconds left on the clock and the game on the line, it’s Nail. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.”
Beaulieu added with a wry smile, “It was a special play we drew up.”
Yakupov is expected to be the number one pick in the National Hockey League draft this June. He scored a highlight reel goal against London last Monday.
“I was happy to score two goals tonight, but not happy about my game of late. I know I can play better. But the coach told us if we win tonight we could have two days off. We had a big third period to win the game.”
A big third period it was as for the second time in two games, the Sting scored four goals in the third period.
“There was no panic,” said Beaulieu, who had just 10 forwards and five defencemen on the bench, with two of 15 being call-ups. “The puck seemed to be bouncing around a lot. It was one of those nights. We had to fight through it and got the two points.”
He added, “The kids battled hard. There wasn’t a lot of energy. But the credit has to go to those kids in that room. They paid attention to detail and worked hard.”
Guelph, who are battling for their playoff lives, jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead on goals by Zack Mitchell and Francis Menard.
Reid Boucher cut the lead in half for the Sting a minute into period two on a power play with his 25th of the season. But Guelph restored their two-goal lead with five minutes left in the period on a power play goal by Cody McNaughton.
The Sting came out with a determined effort in the third period and scored three goals in three and a half minutes to wipe out the deficit and take a 4-3 lead.
Ryan Spooner cut the lead to 3-2 at 5:17 on the power play with his 27th of the year. Ludvig Rensfeldt tied the game at 8:13 with his 18th goal of the season before Yakupov put Sarnia ahead for the first time 41 seconds later.
Jason Dickinson pulled Guelph even at 10:48 on a power play.
The Sting found themselves hemmed in their own end in the final minute and were fighting just to get the game to overtime.
But extra time would not be needed after Yakupov’s heroics with 3.7 seconds left on the clock.
Sarnia finished with a 35-33 edge in shots on goal with J.P. Anderson the winning goalie. Each team had a pair of power play goals.
The Sting played four games in six days this week and took seven out of a possible eight points.
They remain in fourth place in the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League with a 31-21-2-5 record. With nine games remaining, the Sting guaranteed themselves a winning record.
Sarnia remains two points ahead of Owen Sound in the battle for fourth place. Sarnia still holds a game in hand.
Next action for the Sting is Wednesday when they travel to Sault Ste. Marie to take on the Greyhounds. They return home for a pair of games next weekend as they host the Ottawa 67s on Friday at 7:05 p.m. and the Plymouth Whalers Sunday at 2:05 p.m.
Tickets for both games are on sale at the RBC Box Office, by calling 519-541-1717 or going online at Sarniasting.com
- Spooner, who had a goal and two assists, was first star with Dickinson of Guelph second star and Yakupov (two goals and one assist), third star. Defenceman Jack Kuzmyk had one assist and was the Dickie’s hardest working player of the game.
- After returning to the lineup Friday against Windsor after missing nine games, Craig Duininck sat out against Guelph for precautionary reasons. He returned after he suffered a fractured bone in his foot blocking a shot.
- But unfortunately another Sting player is out indefinitely. Rookie forward Daniel Nikandrov suffered a broken foot while blocking a shot Friday against Windsor.
- Besides Duininck and Nikandrov, others not playing due to injuries were Nathan Chiarlitti, Craig Hottot, Adrian Robertson, Alex Basso, Nick Latta and Alex Galchenyuk.
- Sarnia improved to 18-7-1-3 on home ice.
- Sarnia and Guelph split four meetings between the two clubs this year, with each winning a game in the other’s building.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.