By Dan Rankin
When the St. Marys Lincolns brought goaltender Kyle Morning on in relief in the second period last Friday night during Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame night at the Pyramid Centre, it certainly wasn’t what you would call a save situation.
St. Marys starter Tristan Lewis had already made 28 saves before he was pulled, less than halfway through the second frame Friday. Unfortunately, that was after he had already faced 33 shots, and the Lincolns were behind 5-0. At the other end of the ice, his teammates didn’t have an answer for the tough Nationals defensive core or goalie Trenton McGrail, who earned a shutout Friday night making 32 saves in his team’s dominant 8-0 win. It was the Dresden native’s sixth win in eight starts this season, and his second against the Lincolns.
Morning made seven saves on 10 shots in relief for the Lincolns, who must have been feeling fatigued after a road game that went to double overtime the previous evening in Sarnia.
While St. Marys (7-17-0-1) couldn’t find the back of the net on nine chances with the man advantage, the Nationals converted on four of their seven power pltay opportunities, including three power play goals in their five-goal second period.
London’s top goal-scorer, captain Austin Kemp, led the way for his team with a pair of goals and a pair of assists. He has 18 goals on the season. Three other players finished with three points, including Carson Brookshaw (1 goal, 2 assists), Richard Whittaker and Brenden Trottier (both with 3 assists). Trottier has tallied an impressive 37 points in 25 games for the second-place Nationals (19-6-1-0). That puts him behind only LaSalle’s Ethan Sarfati (37) and Chatham’s Austin Thompson (38) for top scorer in the Western Conference.
Chatham (16-6-0-1) skated without Thompson for the second consecutive game when they hosted the Lincolns on Sunday, winning 5-2 and proving that their scoring talent extends beyond their leading points producer. It was a balanced effort for the Maroons, with Josh Barraclough, Bryce Yetman, and Alec Mackenzie all chipping in with a goal and an assist. Alessio Luciani and Matthew Zilke scored for St. Marys, while Lewis made 27 saves in the losing effort.
Sunday was the second night in a row the Lincolns were unable to net any power play goals after scoring three on the road in Sarnia on Thursday, Nov. 24. A pair of unanswered power play goals by Tanner Hertel in a three-minute span of the third period erased a 4-2 Sarnia lead Thursday, forcing overtime against the Legionnaires. Tyson Kielt and Brandon Glover assisted on both goals, and each finished the night with three points.
It was the first time the Lincolns had played extra time this season and, after the first period of overtime, the game remained tied at 4-4. At 2:36 of double overtime, Wallaceburg’s Alec DeKoning broke the tie, claiming the 5-4 win for Sarnia (16-11-0-0).
The Lincolns will have their work cut out for them tonight when they host the first place LaSalle Vipers (19-3-0-3) at the Pyramid Centre, beginning at 7:30 pm. On Wednesday, Dec. 7, they’ll have a rematch against the Nationals in London.
The Lincolns are exactly halfway through their 50 game schedule. With seven wins and an overtime loss in the bag, they’re on pace to easily surpass their wins and points totals from each of the last three campaigns. Last season, they finished with nine wins and 23 points, which was a marked improvement over the two wins and eight points garnered by the 2014-2015 squad.