George Mathewson & Troy Shantz
Don’t look now, but the Sarnia Sting are the hottest junior hockey team in Canada.
At press time, the Sting boasted a 14-1 record, best in the Ontario Hockey League and good enough for the No. 1 overall ranking in the Canadian Hockey League.
The best start in team history has been a beautiful thing for fans, players and management alike. But it’s too early to say this is the year the snake-bitten franchise finally enjoys a lengthy playoff run, said netminder and Sarnia native Justin Fazio.
“I don’t think you can really look at the record at all,” he said. “It’s been proven in this league that any team can beat any team on any night.”
Fazio, in his fifth season with the club, says Sarnia’s style of play and wildly successful offence has been a challenge for opponents.
“We keep it simple, but when you have such speed and skill up front, you can really expose teams, and that’s what we’ve been doing so far,” he said.
Sarnia fans have always supported the Sting, Fazio said, but playing in front of them this season has been that much more fun.
“There’s definitely a good vibe in the city,” he said. “We’re trying to go as far as we can and make the city proud, and you can feel the city getting excited too.”
Indeed, the Sting are the talk of coffee shops and checkout lines across the county. They’ve scored the most goals, given up the fewest, and are fun to watch.
Sting superfan Cam Ross said Sarnia’s record has been aided by an early season schedule loaded with home games against teams with losing records.
A more accurate measure of the team should emerge in a couple of weeks, he said.
Without speculating too deeply, Ross said the current lineup is a balanced one that could go far.
“Who knows, we’ve been waiting a long time for the Sarnia Sting to get into the second round,” he said.
“This just might be the year.”