Sting prepare for playoff push

The Ontario Hockey League post-season is a long ways off, but it will be a new experience for almost everyone on the Sarnia Sting if they get there.

Head coach Alan Letang watches the Sarnia Sting practise during training camp at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

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The Ontario Hockey League post-season is a long ways off, but it will be a new experience for almost everyone on the Sarnia Sting if they get there.

Only three players on the Sting’s young roster have been to the OHL playoffs.

Nolan Burke and Nolan DeGurse have played three games apiece and Theo Hill has played one.

Head coach Alan Letang wants the Sting in playoff mode from here on out.

“We have to use this as our experience,” he said.

That means being patient in tight games and not taking unnecessary risks, he said.

“Playoff hockey to me is, you’re going into the third period 1-0 down, but it’s OK because you need one or two chances (and then) the game’s tied,” Letang said. “Then when you tie the game, you don’t cheat to get a chance. You wait for that chance to present itself, whether it’s on the power play or there’s a turnover or you’ve created something by beating someone one-on-one.

“You’re comfortable in one-goal games, you’re comfortable if the game goes to overtime. You’re just comfortable. You’re playing the game and not looking to create out of nothing.”

The Sting have won three of four games since ending their extended holiday break.

They’ll have a chance to avenge that one loss during a home-and-home series against the Attack. The teams will face off at 7:05 p.m. Friday at Progressive Auto Sales Arena and at 2 p.m. Sunday in Owen Sound.

The Attack scored four third-period goals for a 5-0 win in Sarnia on Jan. 12. They played well, but they also outworked the Sting in the final frame, Letang said.

“We didn’t dig in,” he said. “They dug in, they stayed with it, they stuck with it. That’s the difference.”

Since then, the Sting have won two in a row for their first winning streak in two months. Both wins were against teams – Windsor and London – that bolstered their rosters for the second half.

“It’s just realizing you don’t have to chase the game, the game will come to you,” Letang said. “You’ll get opportunities from playing the right way.”

The Sting (13-13-3-0) and Attack (13-13-1-2) were tied for sixth place in the Western Conference going into Thursday’s action.

The Sting will be missing one of their leading scorers, Nolan Dann, for both games this weekend.

The 18-year-old winger received a two-game suspension for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of Sunday’s win over London after Landon Sim ran into Sting goalie Ben Gaudreau.

Dann is third on the Sting with 31 points in 29 games. His 16 goals are second to linemate Burke’s 19.

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