Photo by Metcalfe Photography
When Charlie Sarault of the Sarnia Sting was asked for a comment on the team’s game with the Peterborough Petes, his first response is probably what everyone in the rink felt.
“It’s good to have Yakie back.”
Sarault was alluding to the fact Nail Yaupov was back in the Sting lineup after missing two weeks with a back injury.
Sarault had a goal and three assists while Yakupov had a goal and two assists in leading the Sting to a much-needed 4-2 victory, Sunday afternoon in front of 2,849 fans at the RBC Centre.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak leaving the Sting with 18-9-1-4 record in the Ontario Hockey League.
Brett Thompson chipped in with a goal and an assist to give the Thompson, Sarault, Yakupov line nine points in the game.
Yakupov, along with several other Sting regulars, have missed games over the past month. But he returned against Peterborough and showed the flashes of skill that will make him the first overall pick in the 2012 National Hockey League draft next June.
“He’s a very special player,” said Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu, when asked about Yakupov’s return. “Star players have that knack of being game breakers and changing the momentum of the game. He came back today and had three points. Not bad for a guy who missed the past two weeks.”
The Sting scored three of their four goals on the power play.
“Nail is the missing element on our power play,” said Sarault. “He makes teams give him more time and space.”
Yakupov and Sarault now share the team scoring lead with 49 points apiece.
“The four points feels nice. My linemates played well. I got some bounces today. In the previous two games I didn’t get any bounces at all. We wanted to go into next weekend on a positive note and not have three losses in a row. We need two points because we’ve been battling a lot of injuries and sickness recently.”
Beaulieu was more than pleased with his team’s effort.
“It was a character win. We didn’t have much left in the tank. The kids battled real hard. They played our systems real well.”
Sarnia was outshot 17-5 in the opening period. Thanks to Sting netminder Brandon Maxwell, the game was scoreless.
Sarnia did have one great chance when Yakupov had a breakaway, but was stopped by Petes goalie Andrew D’Agostini.
The Sting went to work in the second period scoring four straight goals, three of them coming on the power play.
Yakupov got things started at 2:40 with a laser of a slapshot from just inside the blue line. It was his 19th goal of the year.
Thompson scored his 18th at 6:12 when he knocked in a short pass from Sarault. At 13:05 Taylor Carnevale notched is seventh of the year tapping in a goalmouth pass from Yakupov.
“Our power play has been pretty good all year,” said Beaulieu. “We’ve been in the top five most of the season. It takes skill and today guys like Sarault and Yakupov were making the right decisions.”
Sarault scored his 13th of the year at 14:17 at full strength when he knocked in a loose puck from close range.
That goal chased the Petes starting netminder after he allowed four goals on 12 shots.
Peterborough finally solved Maxwell at 14:57 when Dylan Fitze scored.
The Petes scored the lone goal of period three at 6:58 by Stephen Pierog.
Sarault says he’s never had four points in an OHL game before coming to Sarnia this year. He already has 11 more points than he did all of last season in Kingston.
“Obviously it’s been a good transition for me. I like it here in Sarnia. It’s a good spot and we have a good team.”
The Petes finished with a 38-23 edge in shots on goal with Maxwell solid throughout in gaining the victory for Sarnia.
Sarnia is now just two games shy of the halfway point of the season.
“Sure I’m satisfied, but we still don’t know where we are,” said Beaulieu. “I think it’s 10 games in a row we haven’t been able to ice a full lineup. We’ve got through stuff probably only one other team in the league has gone through. Last night we had nine guys out and there will seven today.”
The Sting plays their final home game before the Christmas break when they host the Owen Sound Attack. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at the RBC Centre. Calling the RBC Box Office at 519-541-1717 or going online at Sarniasting.com can obtain tickets
Sarnia will play in Erie on Saturday and in Brampton Sunday afternoon before taking a 10-day break.
Their first home game after Christmas is not until January 1 when they host the London Knights at 2:05 p.m.
– Sarault was first star with Yakupov second star and Fitze of the Petes third star. Thompson was the Dickies hardest working player of the game.
– Sarnia improved their home record 10-4-1-3.
– Sarnia finished three-for-nine with the man advantage while Peterborough was zero-for-six. The Sting rank second in the OHL on the penalty kill at 85.9 per cent.
– On Tuesday night between 7 and 9 p.m. the Sting will unveil their 2011-12 trading card set. Fans can purchase the entire team set and then have them autographed, as players will be on hand. The cost is only $10. Location for the session is Bayview Chrysler on Indian Road.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.