Confidence of new look Sting continues to grow
By Matt Tidcombe/CHL
Things appear to be coming together in Sarnia.
After general manager Dylan Seca made a plethora of trades to bring NHL drafted talent to town, the Sting have found their groove recently with nine wins in their past 13 games as they have moved into fourth spot in the OHL’s Western Conference.
“Day-to-day, we have so much fun,” said Sasha Pastujov (ANA), who was acquired from Guelph Nov. 17. “We grab a bite together after every practice. We have a really special locker room. My first week felt like I had been here for a year.
“You guys are only beginning to see what we are capable of.”
Pastujov was the first domino to fall in the Sting’s quest for a maiden OHL title. In the lead up to the OHL trade deadline, Seca added Luca Del Bel Belluz (CBJ) and Ethan Del Mastro (CHI) from Mississauga as well as Christian Kyrou (DAL) from Erie to add to a talented core that already featured Nolan Burke (NSH), Ben Gaudreau (SJ), Marcus Limpar-Lantz, Ryan Mast (BOS), Sandis Vilmanis (FLA) and Ty Voit (TOR).
“Seeing our GM make those moves, it honestly gets you pretty fired up,” Pastujov said. “You believe in the team, you believe in yourself, but to see Dylan really believe in our locker room and add the pieces he sees fit, it gets the locker room fired up.
“We come to the rink and believe in each other but to have management and our staff believe in us so much to make those moves, that’s definitely a big sign of confidence to our group.”
"Welcome to Sarnia!"
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) November 19, 2022
Pastujov has certainly done his part as a member of the Sting. In 22 games, the 66th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft has 14 goals and 38 points.
A year ago, the Bradenton, FL., native had 34 goals and 76 points as a rookie with Guelph and had 11 goals in 14 games this year before the trade. The decision to head to the CHL came after consultation with Anaheim where Pastujov made the decision to de-commit from Notre Dame of the NCAA.
“Being traded was a whirlwind and something I never experienced before,” he recalled. “Being traded to Sarnia was bittersweet. [I was] excited for the opportunity to come to a team that’s contending to win a championship but those relationships in Guelph I’m missing each and every day.
“It was tough but the hardest part was leaving my billets … but luckily they’ve been up to Sarnia a couple of times to watch me play so to keep our relationship going has been great.”
With 25 games left in the regular season, the Sting have time to iron out the consistency needed to win an OHL title. Yet despite an abundance of talent, the Sting aren’t taking anything for granted, especially after the franchise has experienced playoff heartbreak over the years.
“On paper our team is special but paper isn’t going to win games and championships,” Pastujov said. “That’s what we’re reminding ourselves each and every day and that we have to show up, put our work boots on and get one per cent better every day.”
Pastujov and the Sting are in action Tuesday night in the CHLTV Game of the Week when they visit Kitchener at 7pm ET / 4pm PT.
Available to fans from coast to coast, CHL TV is accessible on the CHL mobile app, in addition to Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire, and online at watch.chl.ca. Each year, CHL TV offers access to more than 2,000 regular-season games covering the CHL’s three Member Leagues and 60 markets across Canada and the United States. Fans can download the free CHL app via the App Store and Google Play.