LONDON – The tough times continued Friday night for the Sarnia Sting.
The Sting dropped a 7-3 decision to the London Knights in front of 9.046 fans at the John Labatt Centre.
Sarnia has now lost four in a row to see their record dip to 19-13-1-4 in the Ontario Hockey League.
Keeping the puck out of their own net has become an issue as in these last four losses Sarnia has allowed 24 goals, an average of six per game.
“We allowing too many shots in good scoring areas,” said Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu, when asked about his team’s defensive play. “We have to do a better job at eliminating those shots.”
He added, “We weren’t sharp at times and the execution wasn’t there. The effort was there and we worked hard, but they put the puck in the net. We’ve lost four in a row and we need to get out of this funk.”
There was plenty of offence and little defence from both teams as the Knights took a 3-2 lead after one period.
London opened the scoring two and a half minutes into the game when Andreas Athanasiou was left alone in front of the Sting goal and knocked in a loose puck.
Sarnia tied the game at 6:35 on the power play when Reid Boucher wristed home a high shot from a sharp angle for his 21st goal of the season.
The Knights responded with a pair of goals as Brett Welychka scored on a rebound at 11:54 while Josh Anderson poked home a loose puck from close range and 13:38.
But the Sting pulled to within a goal at the 15-minute mark when Brett Ritchie notched his eighth of the year finishing off a centering pass from Charlie Sarault.
London opened up a 5-2 lead in period two scoring a pair of power play goals.
Seth Griffith scored the first one at the 46-second mark and he was allowed to skate untouched from the corner to slip a backhand past goalie Brandon Maxwell. Welychka got his second of the game at 17:35 on a low shot between the legs of Maxwell.
Sarnia showed some signs of life when they cut the lead to 5-3 a minute and a half into period there when Domenic Alberga scored his fifth of the year backhanding home a pass out from Brett Thompson.
But the Knights pulled away with two more goals, both by Griffith to complete his hat trick scoring at 3:45 and 16:01.
A full lineup of 20 players lasted just one game for the Sting. Sarnia played one under the limit against the Knights. Veteran forward Craig Hottot suffered an upper body injury against Sault Ste. Marie on Wednesday and did not dress.
Still missing are Nail Yakupov, Ludvig Rensfeldt, Alex Basso, Ryan Kujawinski and Alex Galachenyuk. Kujawinski is attending the under-17 tournament in Windsor, but has not yet played for Team Ontario as he recovers from a knee injury.
“Some guys have been run into the ground of late,” said Beaulieu. “It’s made things extremely tough on our top six forwards and top four defencemen.”
Sarnia finished with a 35-33 edge in shots on goal with Michael Houser the winning goalie while Maxwell took the loss.
The Knights also had several players missing including Olli Maatta, Max Domi, Vladislav Namestnikov, Scott Harrington, Jarred Tinordi, Matt Rupert and Bo Horvat.
London and Sarnia renew their rivalry Sunday at the RBC Centre. Game time is 2:05 p.m. Tickets are available by calling the RBC box office at 519-541-1717 or going online at Sarniasting.com
– London scored two power play goals and Sarnia one.
– Sarault assisted on all three Sting goals giving him five points in the last two games. He now has 60 points on the season and is just six behind OHL leader Tanner Pearson. Sarault’s 46 assists is tops in the league.
– Sarnia has fallen one game under .500 on the road at 8-9-0-1. Sarnia won just one of seven road games in December. The only victory was a shootout win in Peterborough.
– Ritchie has now scored in back-to-back games since returning from injury.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.