Sting strikes first in rekindled rivalry

Morris Dalla Costa, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:32 AM ET

SARNIA --Sundays are known for resurrections and this Sunday was the resurrection of a rivalry . . . between the Sarnia Sting and the London Knights.

The Sting defeated the Knights 4-3 in an entertaining Ontario Hockey League game marking the start of what will be the most competitive season between these teams in many years.

The Knights and Sting have always been rivals but in order for it to be a true rivalry, the teams have to close in talent. For many years it's been a one-way street, with the Knights always emerging with the better team.

Which team will eventually be better is a long way from being determined but if Sunday's contest is any indication, getting there should be a lot of fun for both cities.

The teams have played a combined 20 games between them and they have three losses. With the win, the Sting move ahead of the Knights to tie Windsor Spitfires for the lead in the Western Conference. It was the Sting's seventh win in succession.

This was a game that had a myriad of storylines. The most obvious being that it was the first game for Sting coach Jacques Beaulieu against his old team and coaching mates, Dale and Mark Hunter of the Knights.

But the game had a lot more than that. It had strategy, emotion and comebacks that provided the 3,726 fans in attendance a real bang for their buck.

While the history between the Hunters and Beaulieu made for great interest, neither felt it added any extra sizzle to the contest.

"They have a good team over there," Knights GM Mark Hunter said. "But the fact Jacques coaches here doesn't make it any more of a rivalry. I was interested to see how we would play against one of the better teams in the league."

Beaulieu said much the same thing.

"It's always special getting a win against a team you used to be with," Beaulieu said. "But I've been with them for 10 years. I don't wish anything bad happens to them. I'm just worried about my team and see what I can do to make it better."

There was a lot of talent on the ice but a lot of talent still missing from both teams. The Knights are still without captain Jarred Tinordi out with an eye injury. He can see out of the eye but will be reassessed early this week. Seth Griffith, who went into the boards in a nasty way Saturday and injured an ankle, was able to play on Sunday.

The Sting are without Alex Galchenyuk, a potential first-round NHL pick, who has a mysterious knee injury. He's been examined by numerous doctors and should get a definitive diagnosis this week. The Sting were also missing Taylor Carnevale with another knee injury.

But there was more than enough talent left to make the remaining games between these two teams mouthwatering.

There were times Sunday when the wear and tear of three games in two-and-a-half days affected both teams but both teams pulled out whatever they had in their reserve tanks to come back from deficits to take leads in the game.

The Knights got goals from rookies Max Domi and Bo Horvat to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead in the third period. But the Sting still have Nail Yakupov, a potential No. 1 pick in the NHL draft and even though he was kept under wraps for most of the game by Knights Tyler Ferry, it didn't take much for Yakupov to take over the game.

Ferry was off the ice on a Sting powerplay when Yakupov lasered a one-timer past Michael Houser to tie the game. A few minutes later, Ferry trying to kill another penalty when Yakupov set up Reid Boucher for the winner.

"You give him an inch and he'll take it," Beaulieu said. "That's why he's going to play in the NHL."

Ferry did a good job on Yakupov but was disappointed he didn't do a complete job on him. Early in the game when Ferry gave Yakupov no room, the young Russian was growing frustrated.

"It's unacceptable even to get an assist," Ferry said. "It's tough to play him because he has a lot of skill and creativity but my strengths is skating a grit. That's my job. That's my role. Next time I have to make sure he doesn't do anything."

It will just be one more thing of interest next time in a rivalry that has truly found its legs again.

Game Glance

Sarnia 4, London 3

Goals: Sarnia-Craig Hottot, Reid Boucher, Nail Yakupov , Charlie Sarault; London-Bo Horvat, Max Domi, Colin Martin.


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