Just before the Christmas break
By Pat Payton
Special to the Independent
LEAMINGTON – St. Marys Lincolns have played the Leamington Flyers tough!
The well-coached Flyers are again one of the top clubs in the Western Conference, and Lincs have taken three of a possible four points on Leamington ice to date.
Lincolns gained a valuable point here Dec. 21 when they battled back from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime. Midway through the first extra period, the second-place Flyers scored to claim a 4-3 victory in front of about 500 spectators.
Leamington improved to 20-8-4-1 with the win, leaving them seven points behind the front-running London Nationals (25-6-0-2). For Lincs (6-21-1-3), it was their first point earned in over a month and it moved them into a temporary eighth-place tie with Strathroy Rockets (7-23-1-2). At the present time, it looks like these two teams could battle it out for the final playoff spot.
Big point on road
In Leamington, the teams traded first-period goals, with Bryce O’Brien scoring for the Flyers and Matt Zilke for the Lincolns.
After goals by Josh Pope-Ferguson and Cody Schneider put the home team ahead 3-1 midway through the second, Zilke (his fifth) fired his second of the night late in the period to keep Lincs within striking distance. Tanner Hertel assisted on both Zilke tallies.
Winger Dalton Bancroft pulled St. Marys into a 3-3 tie at 4:26 of the third. It was the rookie’s 10th goal of the campaign.
Colton O’Brien fired the winner at 2:57 of overtime, boosting Leamington’s home-ice record to 13-2-1-1.
Overall, Flyers out-shot the Lincolns 52-17, with goalie Tristan Lewis making 48 saves for the visitors.
“We gave Leamington a really good game,” St. Marys assistant coach Rick O’Donnell reported. “We played well and had our chances. It was still a loss, but at least we got a point out of it against one of the better teams in the league.
“It’s something positive moving forward.”
Morrison shines in loss
The previous night in London, the first-place Nationals fired four powerplay goals in a 6-2 win over the Lincolns.
Nats broke it open with three unanswered second-period goals.
Brett Primeau scored twice for London, which improved its home-ice record to 15-2. The singles went to Austin Jeffers, Jack Webb, Max Vinogradov and Kyle Dawson.
Clayton Lewis (his 12th on a powerplay) and Michael Andrews replied for St. Marys, which dropped its fifth straight to the Nationals.
Overall, Nats out-shot the Lincolns 58-18, including 22-4 in the middle frame. Lincs’ goalie Evan Morrison, who finished with 52 saves, was named the game’s third star.
Lincolns lost defenceman Oliver Wieringa early in the third with a fighting major and instigator penalty. He sat out the next night in Leamington with a one-game suspension.
–Lincs’ first home game in the New Year is tonight (Jan. 5) when LaSalle Vipers come to town for a 7:30 p.m. face-off. The two teams played Wednesday night in LaSalle.
–On Saturday night, Lincolns have a big game in Komoka against the seventh-place Kings, starting at 7:15 p.m. At the Christmas break, Kings (7-20-4-2) were four points ahead of the Lincs.