Seven regular-season games remaining
By Pat Payton
St. Marys Lincolns have games in hand on both Strathroy Rockets and Komoka Kings.
But Lincs probably need to win four of their remaining seven games if they want to secure a Western Conference playoff berth.
This past weekend, Lincolns (9-27-2-5) managed to gain just one point in three games. They sit two points behind both Strathroy (11-30-2-3) and Komoka (10-27-4-3), and have three games in hand on the Rockets and one on the Kings.
St. Marys has four regular-season home games left. Two of those games are against Komoka, and those games will probably decide if Lincs play in the post-season. Lincolns host the Kings on Friday, Feb. 16 and again on Friday, Feb. 23.
“I feel if we can get three or four wins in the next seven, it might be enough to get us in,” Lincs’ coach Scott Thompson said Sunday afternoon after a 5-1 loss to the visiting St. Thomas Stars.
““We have a few days off now, and we’ll work on a few things this week. We’re still only two points out of seventh place, with games in hand. We’ll regroup and see what happens in the next two weeks.”
Stars 5 – Lincolns 1
At the PRC Sunday, Lincolns trailed 2-0 by the end of the first period and never recovered. The Stars, who still have their sights set on second place, won for the third time on St. Marys ice this season.
“It was a tough game for us right from the start,” coach Thompson admitted. “We didn’t have our legs in the first period and they took it to us. St. Thomas has a good hockey club; they move the puck and cycled it well in our end.
“We’ve played a lot of hockey in the last couple of weeks, and it wears and tears on the body. We’re hoping to get some rest in the next couple of days, and be ready to go (this) weekend.”
Peter Fleming and Adam Keyes led St. Thomas with two goals apiece.
Ryan Bangs and Fleming scored for the Stars in the first period.
After Lincolns failed to score on a four-minute powerplay early in the middle frame, Keyes made it 3-0 at 9:51. Defenceman Jake Weston–with his fourth point in three games–gave Lincolns new life when he scored at 15:11. However, Keyes restored a three-goal advantage for the Stars just 63 seconds later.
Fleming completed the scoring early in the third. Kevin Hu picked up his third assist of the afternoon on the goal.
St. Thomas (26-14-2-2) moved into sole possession of fourth place with the win.
“Our kids are learning how to win now,” Stars’ coach Darren Kelly said. “We have a young team, with three 16-year-olds, and playing Junior is a lot different than minor hockey.
“We won today because of puck possession in their end; we moved the puck around well.”
Rockets 3 – Lincolns 2 (Overtime)
At the PRC last Friday night, Strathroy moved two points ahead of the Lincolns with a 3-2 overtime victory in front of about 300 fans.
Rockets’ Spencer Allen fired the winner at 3:59 of 4-on-4 OT, beating Lincs’ goalie Jacob Hutchings on a 2-on-1 break. It was the only even-strength marker of the night.
With just one point separating the two teams, the game had a playoff-type atmosphere to it.
Scott Thompson felt Lincs could have easily come away with the two points, instead of just one.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” Thompson said. “I thought our boys deserved a better fate with the amount of posts and crossbars that we hit. Unfortunately, the bounces didn’t go our way tonight. But we gained a point and gained a little ground on Komoka, too.
“We’ve got eight games left, and from what we can see, at least four of those games are within our reach.”
All the scoring in regulation time came in the second period and all four goals came on powerplays. After Strathroy’s Michael Wood opened the scoring at the 1:37 mark, Lincolns’ winger Dalton Bancroft fired a pair of goals–his 18th and 19th–just over three minutes apart midway through the period. Defenceman Jake Weston assisted on both goals. Rockets’ defenceman Brady MacDonald tied it with just 2:47 left in the frame.
Strathroy was the better team in the third period, but Lincs held on and got the game to extra time.
“All the games are like playoff games right now,” Rockets’ coach/GM Mike Bondy said afterwards. “We’re stressing to our guys to do the little things well because every game is so important. You have to be ready, and the mental and technical sides of the game become big.
“Our guys battled hard tonight, but St. Marys played well, too. It was just a matter of who got the extra bounce tonight.”
Overall, Lincolns out-shot the Rockets 30-27. Both sides had three shots in extra time.
Lincs finished with a 2-2-2 record against Strathroy this season.
Maroons 4 – Lincolns 2
In Chatham last Thursday night, Lincolns held the lead for the first 33 minutes, before Maroons rallied for a 4-2 victory.
Lincs travelled to the game with just 15 skaters and two goalies.
Defenceman Jake Mooring gave Lincolns a 1-0 lead 41 seconds into the game. It stayed that way until Bryce Yetman and Jordan Frasca (powerplay) scored late in the second period to put Maroons ahead 2-1.
Lincs’ Dalton Bancroft tied it in the first minute of the third, but Dawson Garcia put Chatham in front again just 26 seconds later. Steven Fowler, with just nine seconds left to play, added an insurance marker for the Maroons.
Overall, Chatham out-shot St. Marys 49-23. Evan Morrison played the first two periods for Lincolns, and Jacob Hutchings the final 20 minutes.
With the win, the sixth-place Maroons improved their record to 4-1 against the Lincs.
Upcoming games: Lincolns’ busy February schedule continues this Thursday when they travel to Sarnia to meet the Legionnaires at 7:10 p.m. After their huge home game against Komoka Friday at 7:30 p.m., Lincs entertain Chatham on Monday, Feb. 19. The Canada Day game starts at 2 p.m.