By Pat Payton
WATERLOO – The Independent has learned that three members of the St. Marys Lincolns will play in the two GOJHL Top Prospects Games slated for Thursday, Dec. 27 at the Waterloo Rec. Memorial Complex.
The Future Stars game features the best 16-year-olds in the GOJHL, and Lincs’ forwards Carter Schoonderwoerd and Quinton Pepper will suit up for Team Moreau which plays Team Pietrangelo, starting at 12 noon. Schoonderwoerd (14 points) hails from Mitchell and Pepper (18 points) is a London resident.
The Top Prospects game is for the best 17 and 18-year-olds in the league. Lincolns’ centre Joe Mazur is a member of Team Crowder which plays Team Clubb, starting at 3 p.m.
Players from all three conferences–Western, Midwestern and Golden Horseshoe–are taking part. Proceeds go to the Frank Santarossa Scholarship Fund which provides financial assistance to players of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL) to assist them in furthering their education.
–Joe Mazur, meanwhile, was honoured as Lincolns’ St. Marys Buick GMC player-of-the-month for November prior to last Friday night’s home game. The big centre received a plaque from Lincs’ vice-president Bill Lowe.
Mazur had four goals and six assists for 10 points last month. The 17-year-old Sudbury native has a team-leading 11 goals at the present time.
–Lincolns’ veteran goalie Justin Richer was recently involved in a car accident and will miss an expected seven or eight games with an upper-body injury. Kyle Curtin has played the last five games.
Richer, 19, from Sudbury, will return to game action early in the New Year. He has posted five of Lincs’ seven wins to date.
Veteran defenceman Brett Whitehead will sit one more game after receiving a two-game, abuse-of-an-official suspension last Friday against London Nationals.
–Lincolns announced this past weekend that forward Christian Froese has been released and he’s joined Lambeth Jr. ‘C’ Lancers. The 17-year-old Londoner had one goal and three points in 24 games with St. Marys.
–Lincs have only one regulation-time win since Nov. 11, but Director of Hockey Operations Jim MacEachern sees a silver lining looking to the future.
“We’re an exciting hockey team, and we haven’t been on the right side of a lot of games to this point,” MacEachern said following last Friday night’s 4-2 loss to London. “But we want the majority of our guys back next year, and I think we have the potential for one heckuva hockey team here.
“It’s been my message since day one, and we need to retain these young kids. There’s no better place to play than St. Marys . . . we have great fans, a great organization. With a year’s experience under their belts, it’s nothing but positive for us going forward.”
Coach Trent McClement agrees.
“We’re trying to build something here, and the league this year is a really tough league,” he said. “The positive about being in a tough league is that every night is a tough game. It’s going to help in the long run with the development of our players.”
–The first-place Nationals (22-6-0-2) recently lost four in a row, but coach/GM Pat Powers says his team wasn’t ready to push the panic button. It’s something that most teams go through over a course of a season.
“Sometimes a little complacency sits in, and maybe guys started taking things for granted a little bit,” he said before last Friday’s game in St. Marys. “You get into that November lull where guys are getting ready for university exams. I think a lot of things played into it, and it was nice to see us shake out of it at home against Sarnia (last Wednesday).
“We just have to play our game every single night, stick to the systems and put in the work ethic. With the skill we have in our dressing room, we have to work every night or any team can beat us.”
–Powers didn’t mince words when asked if there is pressure to win the GOJHL title this season. Nationals have been a Sutherland Cup contender each of the last three years, reaching the OHA final in two of those three seasons.
“Absolutely, there’s no question about that,” the coach replied. “Yes, the pressure is on us. We’ve been in this position every year, and sooner or later we have to get it done. You have to be true to your players. You have to stick with the guys you choose. Every team is going to make additions here and there, but you choose a player for certain reasons.
“I think the best teams are the best teams when they continue to see that potential in those players. We have a real good team this year, and we like the group that we have, and it’s all about making the group that you have into the best team possible and preparing them for when the wins really matter.”