By Pat Payton
It was a good pre-season start for St. Marys Lincolns Saturday afternoon at the PRC.
Three first-period goals–in a span of less than six minutes–helped propel the Lincs to a 4-0 victory over Cambridge Redhawks (formerly the Guelph Hurricanes) of the Midwestern Conference.
Exhibition games often come with their fair share of rookie mistakes, but it was an entertaining, fast-paced contest and many of Lincolns’ young prospects showed off their offensive skills. For the most part, Lincs also displayed good puck movement and good decision making.
Lincolns’ first-period goals came off the sticks of Carter Schoonderwoerd, Carson McMillan and Blair Butchart (on a powerplay). Tanner Hertel, who has returned to St. Marys after playing the second half of last season with Wingham Jr. ‘C’ Ironmen, assisted on two of the markers.
Dario Beljo added the fourth Lincs’ goal midway through the second period.
Goalie Justin Richer, a 19-year-old from the Sudbury area, played all 60 minutes to earn the shutout.
“We’ve got some really good team speed and some good size,” Director of Hockey Operations Jim MacEachern said following the game. “Today, at times, I thought we came at them in waves.
“But, from a team perspective, we have a lot of work to do in our end of the ice, let’s be honest there. It’s game one, and there’s still a lot of hockey to be played. But it was a good start today.”
MacEachern was impressed with Richer’s first outing.
“Justin’s a very good communicator,” he pointed out. “That’s what this game is about . . . communication. He’s a Junior veteran and you could hear Justin all over the ice. That’s going to be a key for our young guys.”
Four games in six days
Over the next week, Lincolns complete their five-game pre-season schedule with four games in a span of six days.
Lincs play home and away against Stratford Warriors this week. Warriors are in St. Marys tonight (Thursday, Aug. 23) at 5:15 p.m., and then the teams play Friday night at Stratford’s Rotary Complex at 7 o’clock.
After playing the Redhawks in Cambridge on Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Lincolns head to Waterloo next Tuesday, Aug. 28 to meet the Siskins at 7:30 p.m.
Impressed with skill level
As training camp opened last week, MacEachern and head coach Trent McClement were impressed with the young talent on the ice.
“We’re looking to see how the players we’ve signed have progressed from the spring skate (in April),” McClement said. “We’re also looking at any walk-ons who might impress us. We’re looking at them as well. We’ll throw them into a couple of exhibition games and see what they can do against another Jr. ‘B’ team.
“It’s basically a whole new team, and we’re just seeing what we have here.”
Overall, McClement has been impressed with the talent level of the players.
“Honestly, we’ve seen a lot of skill and a lot of offensive ability,” the coach said. “Up front this year, we’re going to be young but I think we’re really deep and really skilled. We just have to put it all together.”
Lincs went into camp with 18 players signed, leaving only four roster spots open.
“There was a good pace out there,” MacEachern said after Thursday night’s initial workout. “It was certainly a couple of notches up from the summer skates (in Stratford) that we put on. It’s always nice this time of year as the kids are fresh and eager and ready to go.
“We’re excited as a group around here. It will take some time, but we all believe we can do it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but we believe we’re going in the right direction.”
Lincolns’ remaining pre-season schedule
Thursday, Aug. 23 – Stratford at St. Marys, 5:15 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 24 – St. Marys at Stratford, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 25 – St. Marys at Cambridge, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 28 – St. Marys at Waterloo, 7:30 p.m.