By Pat Payton
The last time the St. Marys Lincolns hoisted the league trophy on home ice was March 8, 1985.
Lincs defeated London Diamonds (now nicknamed the Nationals) 4-2 that memorable Friday night. An estimated 2,400 fans jammed into the PRC to watch a hard-fought game between two bitter rivals. The win gave Lincolns the best-of-seven final four games to two.
It was a season that the entire town got behind the team.
This year’s Lincs’ organization honoured members of that team before a home game on Feb. 9. Members of that team were asked to recall memories of that season. The following are a few examples.
Head coach Jeff Van Vliet
“It’s hard to believe that it was that long ago,” Van Vliet said. “It was just a great group of guys, the players bought in and they worked hard. They certainly had fun with each other.
“And (GM) Angie Nigro got guys from the north that we would have never had a chance of getting. He did his job and the season turned out well. It was a good group and a lot of fun.”
Assistant coach Scott Graham
“That London series was such a great series, and I remember that last game in St. Marys,” he said. “That crowd was pretty memorable.
“I think that team rejuvenated Lincoln hockey in this town. It was a pretty instrumental team. And Angie Nigro deserves a lot of credit for that team. You had a great combination of local kids, area kids, and the kids from the north who came down.
“Then you add guys like Paul Kalbfleisch and Jeff Shipley, who were great players and leaders. It made for a heckuva season. It was good for the Lincolns, and good for the community.”
Goalie Scott Luce
“It was just a great spring,” he said. “The team came together during the season and then took it to another level in the playoffs. I remember Lonnie Loach scoring a lot of key goals, fourth liners chipping in, and a back-up goalie going in and playing a good game in the final.
“Everybody contributed at some point in the playoffs. That’s what made it special.”
Luce is now Director of Amateur Scouting with the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights.
Centre Jeff Shipley
“One thing I remember from that season was showing up at 6 o’clock and not being able to get a parking spot,” he said with a laugh. “And ‘Whiskey Row,’ they were the biggest supporters we had.
“It was just an emotional series with London and it was very good for St. Marys.”
Defenceman Bill Zufelt
“We worked hard and had a lot of fun, and we had a lot of good guys,” said Zufelt, who came down from Sault Ste. Marie.
“We had a couple of real tough series that year, with both Sarnia and London.”