Team’s main focus this season is winning games: GM Smale
By Pat Payton
St. Marys Lincolns’ GM Greg Smale announced the signing of another player last week, just two days before the start of their GOJHL main training camp.
He’s Ethan Lamoureux, a “hard-nosed” right winger who played for the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs Major Midgets last season. The 17-year-old from Ilderton had invites from four other Jr. ‘B’ teams, Smale noted.
With the addition of Lamoureux, Lincs started camp last Wednesday with 20 players signed. The GM says the team will carry a maximum of 23 players this 2019-20 season.
At an Aug. 12 Lincolns’ membership meeting, Smale described it as a “tremendously busy” off-season.
He noted that some GOJHL teams have been “decimated” by other Junior leagues. LaSalle Vipers lost five of their top scorers from a year ago, and defending Western Conference champion London Nationals lost their entire defence corps.
Smale says it’s “very fortunate” that the Lincs aren’t in the same situation. “We’ve done a good job of retaining players,” said the GM, who stressed that the team is focused on developing the players that they have.
One new player Smale’s excited to have is Mason Mantzavrakos, a 17-year-old right winger from London. He was recently acquired from Brantford Jr. ‘B’ Bandits (formerly the 99ers) of the Midwestern Conference for cash.
Mantzavrakos had nine goals, 12 assists and 52 penalty minutes in 44 games as a 16-year-old with Brantford last season. He was also selected to play in the GOJHL’s Future Stars game in 2018-19.
The GM says Mantzavrakos is an “unbelievable scorer and passer,” who also possesses a great shot. “To get that calibre of player replaces a player like Carson McMillan,” he said.
Smale says the Lincolns currently have 15 players who are either 17 or 18 years old. And he says the team “hit two home runs” by signing forward Ryan Burke and defenceman Sam Sedley, a pair of talented 16-year-olds.
The GM hopes Burke will supply a little offence. The Lambeth resident played for the Elgin-Middlesex Minor Midget Chiefs last season. Sedley, a St. Marys native, was captain of the Huron-Perth Minor Midget Lakers a year ago.
“The market indicated we had to act quickly (this summer) and we did,” Smale said. “Last year was about building a foundation and it’s paid off.”
The GM acknowledges that the Lincs are still young, but he notes that several players now have Jr. ‘B’ experience. “We have talent and experience, and it’s something we haven’t had in the last few years.”
The focus is winning
After finishing ninth and out of the playoffs a year ago, Smale says Lincs’ main focus this season is winning hockey games.
“Players are going to fight for their jobs at training camp,” he said at the meeting. “Losing isn’t acceptable and we want to play playoff hockey this year. My goal as a GM is to be in sixth place or higher (in the standings). It will make recruiting easier each season as a result.”
With 14 returning players, the GM says he’s “very excited” about the upcoming season. Centre Blair Butchart, Lincolns’ captain and leading scorer last season, is one of those veterans. Smale says the 20-year-old Butchart will likely be a “top-five player” in the league.
The GM added that he’d like to see 800 fans at Lincs’ home opener on Friday, Sept. 13 against LaSalle.
Jr. hockey notebook:
–Lincolns’ president Brandon Boyd is also “excited” about the upcoming GOJHL season. A “quality” effort–both on and off the ice–is needed to make the team a winner in 2019-20, Boyd says.
–Former St. Marys forward Paul Vanderspank, a five-year Lincoln, will be honoured Friday, Sept. 20 by the Lincs’ Alumni committee. Vanderspank, from the Belmont area, was captain of the Lincolns’ All-Ontario championship team in 1975-76.
–Lincs’ season tickets are now on sale. The team is offering a special price of $99 (a $240 value) until the Lincolns’ home opener on Sept. 13. That’s good for 24 regular-season home games. After Sept. 13, season’s tickets will cost $120. They can be purchased at Guest Services at the PRC.