Lincolns lose lead and game to Sarnia Legionnaires

St. Marys’ losing streak reaches eight games last Friday

By Pat Payton

Special to the Independent

For 30 minutes last Friday night at the Pyramid Rec. Centre, St. Marys Lincolns played very well.

It was the last 30 that were the problem.

Lincs watched a 4-1 lead slip away as Sarnia Legionnaires fought back for a 6-4 victory in front of approximately 300 spectators.

Coach Scott Thompson pointed to discipline, or lack of it, as the main reason for Lincolns’ eighth straight defeat. St. Marys hasn’t won a Western Conference game since Nov. 18 in Strathroy.

“For 30 minutes tonight, we played well,” a frustrated Thompson said. “We were doing the things we needed to do to win a hockey game.

“Then, our minds seemed to go numb and we got into penalty problems. It’s the same guys, the same type of stuff that’s been happening game in and game out. It’s frustrating to see because we battled hard enough to give ourselves a chance to win that game. But the (lack of) discipline came back to bite us. The discipline issue is going to be addressed by guys sitting in the stands.”

The game started well for Lincolns, who jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by veterans Matt Zilke and Dan Cloutier. Cloutier’s eighth goal of the campaign came with just 46 seconds left in the period when he connected on a breakaway while killing a penalty.

After Nolan DeGurse got Sarnia on the scoresheet at 6:33 of the second period, goals by affiliate player Blake Wideman and Jack Gee—just 24 seconds apart midway through the frame—gave Lincs what appeared to be a comfortable three-goal advantage. It was Gee’s first Jr. ‘B’ goal.

Legionnaires replaced starter Will Barber with Jake Wilkins following the fourth St. Marys goal. Wilkins would shut the door the rest of the way.

A parade to the penalty box in the final 10 minutes of the period helped Sarnia score two powerplay goals and narrow the margin to 4-3. The goal-getters were Jon Sanderson and Alec DeKoning.

“If we could have got out of the period ahead 4-2, I think we would have been all right,” Thompson said. “But they started coming at us and we didn’t have an answer for them. It’s the same mistakes that are happening over and over again, and we’re at a loss for ideas on how to fix it.”

With his second of the night, DeGurse pulled the visitors even at 4-4 at 4:31 of the third. After that, both teams pushed for the go-ahead goal. Finally, Sanderson took advantage of a 2-on-1 break to fire the winner with just under five minutes remaining. The winger then completed his hat trick from a scramble at 16:45.

“I wasn’t happy with the first two periods, but I was very happy with our third period,” Legionnaires’ coach Mark Davis said. “We weren’t working hard enough early in the game, and St. Marys got a lead on us.

“I felt sorry for Barber, but we weren’t working hard enough in front of him, so I yanked him after the fourth goal. It made a huge difference and everybody picked it up. In the third period, we dropped down to three lines and really took it to them. We just competed harder in the third.

“But you have to tip your hat to St. Marys, they work hard,” Davis added.

It was a feisty affair, with the team combining for 80 minutes in penalties. Sarnia out-shot the Lincolns 43-25. Goalie Tristan Lewis played well again in the loss.

St. Marys called up Wideman and Jack Robinson from the Huron-Perth Lakers ‘AAA’ Minor Midgets. Wideman finished with two points.

Legionnaires improved to 17-11-1-3 with the win, while Lincs slipped to 6-20-1-2 with the defeat. They continue to sit one point behind the eighth-place Strathroy Rockets (7-22-1-1), with two games in hand.

Lincolns completed their 2017 schedule with road games in London (Wednesday) and Leamington (Thursday) this week. Lincs’ first game in the New Year is Jan. 3 in LaSalle. Their first home game is Friday, Jan. 5 against the Vipers at 7:30 p.m.

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