by DAVE PAUL
The night began with a local hardware store giving out oversized, inflatable hammers to fans entering the RBC Centre -- and ended with the home team getting pounded.
In one of the most one-sided games in team history, the struggling Sarnia Sting, hit rock bottom Thursday night, falling 11-0 to the London Knights. It was the eighth straight loss for Sarnia, which has now dropped completely out of the Western Conference playoff race and, in fact (after a Belleville win on Thursday) now sits last overall in the OHL standings.
The home team held its own for about half a period in Thursday night's game -- then the roof caved in.
In a flash, London turned a scoreless game into a 3-0 lead -- blitzing the Sting with three goals in just over two minutes -- then never looked back.
"It happened quick," said Sting coach Trevor Letowski, following the mismatch. "I felt like we came out with the right intention. We played sound for the first ten minutes."
But, he added, "we're a very fragile group right now. As soon as we bent a little, it was 'game on' for them.
"You'd like to see a bit more fight, late in the game, but we just didn't have it," added the coach.
The Knights ended up with four goals in the first, added three more in the second and scored another quartet in the third period.
Starter Brodie Barrick was chased from the Sting net after 35 minutes, having allowed seven goals. Taylor Dupuis surrendered four in relief.
Fifteen of London's 18 skaters picked up points in the contest, though only Matt Rupert scored more than one goal. He had two. Max Domi and Ryan Rupert each had a goal and two assists.
The news doesn't get any better for the Sting -- they face the Knights again tonight, in London.
And, with the team already playing shorthanded due, mostly, to injuries, Letowski said his squad is just going to have to suck it up.
"No one's going to swoop in and save us," he said. "We have to try to work and grind through it."
If there's any good news, it might be that the increasingly bizarre Anthony DeAngelo suspension saga might be coming to an end. It began as a team discipline-related healthy scratch, two weeks ago. Now, the league has apparently become involved in helping to resolve the issues that have kept the team's star defenceman on the sidelines for the past five games.
DeAngelo, who has begun practising with the team again, was in the arena on Thursday night.
"We're looking for some closure on that and we've been told that's what we're going to get," said Letowski. "It's been hanging over our heads for a while. … It's been somewhat of a distraction. It's not an excuse for (our play), but it's certainly been a distraction."