Gain three of a possible four points before Christmas Break
By Pat Payton
ST. THOMAS – It’s going to be a tough road ahead, but St. Marys Lincolns are back in the hunt for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Lincs are within striking distance after gaining three of a possible four points in their final two games before the GOJHL Christmas Break.
Here Sunday, Dec. 23, Lincolns (8-21-2-1) earned a point in a 2-2 double-overtime tie with the home-town Stars — leaving them seven points behind both Komoka Kings (12-16-1-1) and Strathroy Rockets (13-17-0-0), and trailing St. Thomas (11-15-3-2) by eight.
With 16 regular-season games remaining, St. Marys coach Trent McClement admits his team faces some “big games” early in the New Year.
“We have to come back ready after the break,” McClement said. “We have a big game (Jan. 5) against Komoka right off the bat. We have to rise to the occasion.
“We have a good vibe in the dressing room; that’s what you get with young kids. They’re still staying positive. But the games against Komoka, Strathroy and St. Thomas going forward, those are big points. If you want to catch those teams, you have to get the two points.
“In the New Year, we’re going to see what we have with these young kids. That’s huge because we want to build a champion. Skill is one thing, but you win championships with players who play in the moment.”
Lincolns 2 – Stars 2 (2OT)
On Dec. 23, Lincolns picked up their fourth point in three games at the Joe Thornton Recreation Centre this season. It was also Lincs’ third game in four nights, but they didn’t let any fatigue stop them from putting in a full 70-minute effort on the road.
“Three points this weekend, it’s definitely got us going in the right direction,” coach McClement said. “Over the holidays, we should look at this as a big positive. We’re only seven points out of a playoff spot.”
Carter Schoonderwoerd (his eighth) gave Lincolns a 1-0 lead, scoring a shorthanded goal late in the first period. Stars had the better chances in the middle frame, and after forcing a turnover Liam Fedak tied it at 14:35.
After Colton Wiacek put St. Thomas ahead 2-1 at 5:55 of the third, captain Blair Butchart (his eighth) tied it with just over eight minutes left in regulation time. With just under seven minutes to play, Lincs’ Carson McMillan failed to convert on a breakaway.
Joe Mazur almost won it for St. Marys in the first minute of overtime. His shot beat Stars’ goalie Jesse Hodgson, but not the post. Lincolns’ goalie Kyle Curtin was the reason St. Thomas didn’t get two points on this night. He made an amazing point-blank save in the first overtime, and then stopped a clear-cut breakaway early in the second OT period.
Overall, Lincs out-shot the Stars 39-33, including 6-4 in overtime.
With the tie, Lincolns now have a 2-1-2 record against St. Thomas. With Justin Richer injured, Curtin made his eighth straight start for St. Marys.
Lincolns 4 – Kings 1
At the PRC Friday, Dec. 21, it was a must-win situation for the Lincolns and they responded with a gritty 60-minute effort and a 4-1 victory over Komoka Kings.
With their first win against Komoka this season, Lincs stopped a four-game losing skid and moved to within seven points of the Kings.
“We’ve been playing this way for a while now, and we finally got some puck luck tonight,” coach McClement said. “We’ve had these chances the last two or three games, but we haven’t capitalized. We talked about it before the game that we have to rise to the occasion, and tonight we rose to the occasion.
“We’re a hard team to play against, and when we capitalize on our chances we’re going to get a lot of wins in this league. With young kids here, we have to keep their confidence level up. This win tonight is big for the room.”
Lincolns’ opening 20 minutes were one of their best periods of hockey on home ice in quite some time. They grabbed an early 1-0 lead on a goal by affiliate player Tyler Alexander, and out-shot the Kings 11-4. Only a couple of huge saves by Owen Say prevented St. Marys from being up 3-0 or 4-0 after the first period.
It was Kyle Curtin’s time to shine in the middle frame as a couple of big stops by the young goaltender kept Lincs in front.
Justin McIntyre scored what proved to be the winner at 9:57 of the third after Lincolns forced a turnover in the Komoka zone. At the ensuing face-off, Kings’ Alex Cunningham jumped Lincs’ winger Cayse Ton and received a fighting major and game misconduct as well as instigator and aggressor penalties. It left Lincolns with a nine-minute powerplay and Cunningham with a four-game suspension.
However, it was Komoka that would score first as captain Joel Mazzilli scored shorthanded, pulling the visitors to within a goal with still 6:39 to play. To Lincs’ credit, they responded quickly as Mason Goldie (his ninth) scored just 34 seconds later to restore their two-goal advantage. Carson McMillan added another powerplay goal with 3:42 remaining to clinch it for St. Marys.
Blair Butchart, named player-of-the-game, chipped in two assists.
Lincolns played another strong disciplined game, picking up just four minutes in penalties. Overall, Lincs out-shot the Kings 31-22.
Following the game, McClement said he was not pleased that Komoka targeted one of his players after Lincolns went up 2-0 midway through the third.
“You’re disappointed in the (Komoka) coach (Ron Horvat) when he sends somebody out there,” McClement said. “I don’t think Ton did anything during the game to justify that. I’m a big karma guy, and when you do stuff like that it hurts you in the end.”
Flyers 3 – Lincolns 1
The previous night (Dec. 20) in Leamington, Lincolns lost by a two-goal margin for the fourth straight game–dropping a 3-1 decision to the Flyers.
Three of the game’s four goals came on powerplays.
Leamington’s Thomas Michaud scored the only goal of the first period with the man advantage.
Lincs’ Cayse Ton tied it 1-1 on a powerplay at 5:41 of the middle frame. Flyers’ Adam Jeffrey fired the game’s only even-strength marker just past the midway mark of the period, and it stood up as the game winner.
Ryan Gagnier gave the home team a little insurance with a powerplay goal at 12:28 of the third.
Leamington took 34 of the 40 penalty minutes. Flyers out-shot Lincolns 35-30, but the visitors held a 24-23 edge over the first 40 minutes.
St. Marys now has a 1-4 record against the second-place Flyers, who improved to 17-7-1-3 with the win.
This week: Lincs have a busy start to the 2019 portion of their schedule. They travel to LaSalle on Wednesday of this week, host Chatham Friday night at 7:30 p.m., and then they have huge game in Komoka Saturday evening.