Playoff-savvy Kell lends experience to Sting

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

The 37-goal, 73-point regular season was a bonus.

Trevor Kell knows the Sarnia Sting acquired him from the London Knights in September for one reason -- to lead his new team into the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

When the 20-year-old Thunder Bay native suits up in Kitchener tonight for Game 1 of sixth-ranked Sarnia's best-of-seven OHL Western conference clash with the third-seeded Rangers, there won't be another player on either club with as much big-game background as the Sting assistant captain.

The only other current skaters in the league with a similar winning resume are two of Kell's former Memorial Cup-winning teammates with the Knights -- injured London captain Robbie Drummond and suspended forward Josh Beaulieu.

"I've talked to (Sarnia GM) Alan Millar and (head coach) Dave MacQueen and they want me to lead the way and help out some of our younger guys who have limited or no playoff experience at all," the hard-working Kell said. "This is a team that made the playoffs for the first time in three years. It'll take winning a round to get Sarnia excited. We didn't always pack the rink this year, but the fans got louder as the season went on so you can tell they're getting into it."

They'll really blow the roof off the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre if the Sting knock off the Rangers the way the Owen Sound Attack did last year. Kell, who hasn't had an OHL playoff run end earlier than the Western conference final, knows what it takes to get the job done.

"We need everybody to play better than they did all year," Kell said. "We need guys who don't score goals to score. You look at when Marty (London's Ryan Martinelli) scored with two seconds left against Guelph (in the Western conference final last spring). I think that was his second goal all season and you need those kinds of things to move on in the playoffs. We need (goalie) Parker VanBuskirk to outplay John Murray. Series change on the littlest mistakes and the team that capitalizes on those will get the wins."

Kitchener has its share of injury woes with captain Peter Tsimikalis questionable for tonight's game and forward Victor Oreskovich still ailing from his knee-on-knee collision with London defenceman Todd Perry two weeks ago.

"They have depth so a few injuries won't bother them. And they like to have their defencemen jump up in the rush so we have to keep it simple in our own end," Kell said.

SARNIA VS. KITCHENER

OHL Western Conference quarter-final

Tonight: at Kitchener, 7 p.m.

Tomorrow: at Sarnia, 7:35 p.m.

Sunday: at Kitchener, 7 p.m.

Tuesday: at Sarnia, 7:35 p.m.

x-March 30: at Kitchener, 7:30 p.m.

x-March 31: at Sarnia, 7:35 p.m.

x-April 3: at Kitchener, 7 p.m.

(x-if necessary)

"(Rangers boss) Pete DeBoer has a winning history and he'll have their team ready," Kell said. "We're in good shape with everyone healthy but if we don't come out and have everyone competing, it's going to be tough."

Sarnia, which topped Guelph for sixth spot in the conference in the final game of the regular schedule, repeatedly said it felt content to play under the radar before rising up and making a statement in the playoffs. But it was hard to ignore the Sting with first-overall pick Steve Stamkos setting franchise records for rookie goals (42), assists (50) and points (92).

"He's unbelievable," Kell said. "He's not the biggest guy but he hits. He can skate with the puck at top speed while keeping his head up. He can skate -- not like Drummie (Robbie Drummond) can -- but he's still pretty fast."

Kell, who played defence for London down the stretch and in the playoffs last year, relished the chance to break the shackles of blue-line responsibility and post the best numbers of his junior career.

"When I got a taste of it, I didn't want to stop," Kell said. "I got three goals in my first game and that gave me confidence. I really enjoyed being an offensive player this year. I didn't know what to expect in Sarnia but I had met Dave MacQueen in the summer before I was traded and I knew he was one of the best coaches in the league. He's a vocal coach and he gets the most out of his guys. He would bring in Ryan Wilson and I and talk to his captains and ask their opinions on certain things. Personally, I like that approach."

But Kell still made sure his mates paid attention to their own end. The bulk of regular players on Sarnia's roster finished as pluses in the plus-minus department.

"Guys were laughing because the last few years, there were a few guys who were minus-25 so they had a lot of fun with that stat this year," Kell said.


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