GUELPH – Goals have been tough to come by for forward Charlie Sarault of the Sarnia Sting over the past couple of months.
In fact he had not scored a goal in 11 games.
But that all ended Friday night when Sarault’s 16th goal of the year turned out to be the game winner as the Sting dumped the Guelph Storm 4-2 in front of 3,999 fans at the Sleeman Centre.
The win was the second in a row on the road and three of their last four for the Sting away from home.
But of even more importance is the fact the Sting remained in fourth place in the Western Conference of the Ontario Hockey League, one point up on Owen Sound. The Attack defeated Plymouth 5-1. Sarnia has a game in hand.
Sarault’s goal put the Sting up 3-1 with just over seven minutes to play. Sarault had a wide open net to drill home a slapshot after Storm goalie Garrett Sparks came well out of his net to play a loose puck and couldn’t get back.
“I’ve been waiting for a bounce and tonight finally got one,” said Sarault. “I thought I had scored up in Sault Ste. Marie, but they waved it off because I said they kicked it in. It’s doesn’t matter how they come.”
Sarault has been the team’s top scorer for much of the season, but admits it’s no fun not to score.
“Sure it’s frustrating when you aren’t scoring especially with the amount of ice time I get.”
Sarault added, “I thought we played well. We were able to keep them to the outside. We were short on defence and guys like (Craig) Hottot) and (Connor Murphy) stepped up.”
Sting head coach Jacques Beaulieu says it was nice to see Sarault get a goal.
“Sometimes you need an ugly goal. But Charlie knows how to play the game and is very intelligent. The kids know when something like this happens. You question your confidence when you don’t score and it can be stressful. We know as a coaching staff, but don’t say anything. It’s nice to see Charlie get back on track.”
The Sting was without four regulars, including three defencemen. The three rearguards included captain Nathan Chiarlitti (ankle), Adrian Robertson (neck) and Craig Duininck (foot). Forward Nick Latta (shoulder), also missed his third consecutive game.
Sarnia then lost a fourth defenceman, Alex Basso in the second period after he was involved in a check along the boards in the neutral zone. He suffered an upper body injury.
Craig Hottot played most of the game back on the blue line for Sarnia.
“They play tight hockey and don’t give you much,” said Beaulieu. “I thought we played well defensively and were able to chip pucks in. The kids battled and scrambled with four of our top defencemen out of the lineup.”
Sarnia won for only the second time in the Sleeman Centre in 10 years.
“It’s a tough building to play in,” said Beaulieu. “I found that out by other teams I was with. They always seem to have a good crowd in here and every game is almost like a playoff game.”
Three Sting draft picks were inserted into the lineup. They included forwards Davis Brown (Strathroy) and Daniel Nikandrov (Sarnia) and defenceman Mike Dipaolo (Sarnia).
Dipaolo played the most of the three and drew praise from Beaulieu.
Guelph held a 17-10 edge in shots in the opening period and took a 1-0 lead at 8:42 on a power play goal by Scott Kosmachuk. Sarnia came within 12 seconds of killing off a double minor penalty.
Sarnia tied the game six minutes into period two on Hottot’s 17th goal of the season. Hottot took a pass from Sarault, cut in around the defence and slipped a low shot past Sparks.
The Sting took their first lead of the game at 8:53. Ludvig Rensfeldt was credited with his 17th goal of the year. He took a pass from Brett Thompson on a two-on-one break and made a nice deke before putting home a low backhand.
Sarault’s goal at 12:29 of period three appeared to give the Sting enough of a cushion at 3-1.
But the Storm cut the lead to 3-2 at 13:24 when Cody McNaughton had an open net to score from close range after a deflection on a point shot.
But Hottot iced the game for Sarnia with 43.8 seconds left on the clock when he scored on a wraparound for his career high 18th goal.
“My goal is to get 20. I’ve never had three in a game and that’s been a curse for me. But that doesn’t matter as we battled through a lot of adversity tonight to get the win.”
Hottot added, “I don’t mind going back on the blue line. I played there a few years ago. You see the ice better. It’s nice.”
J.P. Anderson played a solid game in goal for the Sting turning aside 33 of 35 shots. Sarnia directed 32 at Sparks
Sarnia concludes a five-game game road trip Saturday night when they travel to Saginaw to take on the Spirit. Game time is 7:11 p.m. The Sting return home Monday to face the London Knights in the annual Family Day Game at the RBC Centre beginning at 2 p.m.
Calling the RBC Box Office at 519-541-1717 or going online at Sarniasting.com can obtain tickets
Last night’s game with Guelph was the start of five games over the next eight days. After Monday’s game with London, Sarnia plays at Owen Sound Wednesday night before hosting Windsor next Friday and Guelph next Saturday.
– Rensfeldt had a goal and an assist and was named the first star. Kosmachuk of Guelph was second star while Hottot was third star.
– Sarnia improved their overall record to 28-20-1-5 and has moved to the .500 mark on the road at 13-13-0-2.
– The Sting was zero-for-eight on the power play and Guelph one-for-four.
– Sarault leads the Sting in scoring with 16 goals and 55 assists for 70 points. His 55 assists in tops in the OHL.
Dave Borody is a freelance writer who covers Sting games both home and away and also does features for the Sting Website.