By Dan Rankin
The St. Marys Lincolns are a week away from their home opener, which is set for a 7:30 pm puck drop at the PRC on Friday, Sept. 16 against the defending Western Conference champion London Nationals.
Their season kicks off this weekend, however, at the annual Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League showcase, running Sept. 9-11 at the Western Fair Sports Centre in London. All 27 teams in the Junior B GOJHL have two regular season games scheduled this weekend at the Western Fair.
St. Marys faces the Fort Erie Meteors, of the league’s Golden Horseshoe Conference, tomorrow night at 8:00 pm. Last year, the Meteors won 25 of their 50 games but were eliminated by the Niagara Falls Canucks in the first round of the postseason.
Then, Sunday afternoon at 4:45 pm, St. Marys will play the Pelham Panthers, also from the Golden Horseshoe. Last season the Panthers finished dead last not only in their conference, but in the league, with one win, 45 losses and four overtime losses. They were swept from the playoffs by the eventual Sutherland Cup champion Caledonia Corvairs.
St. Marys enters the season having gone 1-3 in exhibition play, an improvement from last year’s preseason when they were held winless. The Lincolns dropped both of their games against the Listowel Cyclones, but managed to steal a 3-2 win against the Stratford Warriors at Allman Arena back on Aug. 26. Lincs forward Jack Danbury scored the game-winning goal on a power play with seven seconds left in regulation. It was his second goal of the game, with both coming on the man advantage. Danbury finished the preseason with two goals and two assists in four games. Blueliner Dylan Nafzinger scored a go-ahead goal earlier in the third period that made it 2-1 for St. Marys.
The Lincolns will look to continue to make progress in 2016-2017. Last season, they finished with a record of 9-36-1-4, good enough for eighth place in the conference. That was an improvement over the two wins they collected in 2014-2015, when they failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Last spring, St. Marys was swept from the playoffs by Leamington in the conference quarter-final.