Sarnia Sting open training camp
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Sarnia Sting open training camp

Jun 30, 2023

The Sarnia Sting’s brain trust wants a good look at a lot of prospects, so the team began training camp Monday with a supersized roster.

The Sarnia Sting’s brain trust wants a good look at a lot of prospects, so the team began training camp Monday with a supersized roster.

Sixty-two players are scheduled to be on ice at Progressive Auto Sales Arena for the first two days of camp.

General manager Dylan Seca and his staff assembled the larger-than-usual roster to help fill the holes left by a huge graduating class.

“It’ll just be a lot bigger and, we hope, more competitive than in years past where the team’s been essentially assembled leading in,” Seca said. “… We hope that there’s some real push this week and we’ll see where that puts us.”

The Sting also scrapped their two-day orientation camp for the younger players. Instead, the prospects and veterans started camp together.

“It’s wide open,” Seca said. “It’s going to be an exciting week.”

They’ll hold morning and afternoon scrimmages Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll also practise Thursday morning before playing their annual intrasquad game at 6 p.m.

“The goal is that Thursday night Black and White game to be a real good test,” Seca said.

No specific number of roster spots are available.

“It’s one of those wide-open scenarios,” Seca said. “Is there a younger player that’s worked hard and is going to jump ahead of an older player? Did an older player secure a spot, where a young guy thought he might get more opportunity? There’s a bunch of those scenarios.”

The camp roster includes 15 returnees: goalies Ben Gaudreau and Nick Surzycia, defencemen Josh Hoover, Owen MacDonald, Lukas Fischer, Carson Campbell and Mitch Young, and forwards Cooper Way, Marko Sikic, Easton Wainwright, Zach Filak, Sandis Vilmanis, Tyson Doucette, Sean Doherty and Carson Hall.

However, only eight of the 15 were everyday players in the post-season as the Sting reached the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference final for the first time.

The Sting added two veterans – twin 19-year-olds Jacob and Andrew LeBlanc – in an off-season trade with the Niagara IceDogs.

They also signed their top four picks from the 2023 draft (forwards Ryan Brown and Lane Sim and defencemen James Barr and Hughston Hurt) as well as 2022 eighth-round pick Nathan Omeri and free agent forward Dennis Lominac.

Import forward Roman Kukumberg is scheduled to arrive Tuesday after playing for Slovakia at the Five Nations Tournament, a warmup event for the world junior championship.

Seca said he and head coach Alan Letang look forward to building another championship contender. The process usually takes two and a half to three years, he said.

“Is it earlier than that? Maybe. Let’s hope,” Seca said. “But I think it’s just a chance to build and mould. That’s the part that we’re really excited about. … ‘Look, we’ve got some new vision, some new ideas and let’s run with it.’

“The flipside to that is the last couple years we’ve really changed the culture in a positive way. We’ve built a foundation of expectations and values that we know is going to carry on. While we’re building new, we’re also carrying over standards and expectations that are going to be set for what we hope to be years and years to come.”

The Sting will lose three players to NHL camps: Vilmanis (Florida), Kukumberg (Minnesota) and Gaudreau (Tampa Bay).

The Sting begin their five-game exhibition schedule with a home-and-home series against the Knights on Saturday, Sept. 9, at London’s Budweiser Gardens and Sunday, Sept. 10, at Progressive Auto Sales Arena.

They’ll celebrate their 30th season by returning to their original home, Pat Stapleton Arena, on Wednesday, Sept. 20, to host the Windsor Spitfires.

“We thought it would be a real neat venue and opportunity,” Seca said. “It’s exciting.”

The Sting also host the Flint Firebirds on Friday, Sept. 22, at Progressive Auto Sales Arena and visit the Spitfires at Windsor’s WFCU Centre on Saturday, Sept. 23.

The regular season and home opener is Friday, Sept. 29, versus the Spitfires.

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