Lincs move to within five points of second-place Leamington Flyers
By Pat Payton
ST. THOMAS – The St. Marys Lincolns continue to nip at the heels of the second-place Leamington Flyers.
A 6-5 overtime win over the home-town Stars here Sunday night moved the Lincs to within five points of the Flyers in the Western Conference standings. After weekend action, St. Marys (18-6-1-3) also has two games in hand on Leamington (22-7-0-1) and sit five points ahead of the fourth-place LaSalle Vipers (15-9-1-4) with one game in hand.
Sunday’s win was the Lincolns’ first in three trips to the Joe Thornton Community Centre this season. In St. Marys’ last game in St. Thomas on Nov. 17, the Stars scored the winner in OT to claim the two points. This time, Lincs returned the favour as winger Mason Mantzavrakos (his 18th) fired the winner with the man advantage late in the first, five-minute overtime period.
“The two points are huge,” coach Trent McClement said. “It’s tough playing back-to-back games, but good teams find ways to win hockey games. If we want a chance to win this league, and I think we’re as good as anybody, we just have to buckle down and fix a few issues.
“If we could go on a little run, you might end up in second place by the Christmas break.”
The victory also improved the Lincolns’ road record to 10-3-1-2. Only the first-place London Nationals (25-3-0-1) have earned more points on the road to date than St. Marys.
Lincolns 6 – Stars 5 (OT)
In St. Thomas Sunday, defenceman Riley Coome set up Mantzavrakos for the game winner at the 3:57 mark of 4-on-4 overtime. It was the Lincolns’ fourth powerplay goal of the contest. Nathan Small also drew an assist.
The Stars grabbed a 2-0 lead before the contest was five minutes old, but the Lincs responded with five straight goals–including three on powerplays–and held a 5-2 advantage late in the second period. However, St. Thomas stunned St. Marys with three goals in the final five minutes of the frame to pull even at 5-5.
“We just have to learn to play with the lead; it’s a learning curve,” coach McClement said. “A couple of those goals were bad mistakes on our part. When you’re up 5-2, that’s when the game has to be over. You can’t let the other team back in the game.
“But St. Thomas can score goals. You have to come to play 60 minutes, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing. But the boys didn’t give up tonight; they have the confidence they can win any hockey game.”
Coome had two powerplay goals for the Lincolns, with rookie Ryan Burke also connecting with the man advantage. Burke collected four assists as well for a five-point night. Ethan Lamoureux and Joe Mazur also scored for the visitors. Mantzavrakos picked up two assists as well for a three-point outing.
Veteran Jake Robinson, with two, Colton Wiacek, Brock Trichilo and Jordan Hurtubise replied for St. Thomas.
Both teams finished with 38 shots, with the Lincs having all four in extra time. Goalie Cyrus Martin improved to 2-0 with the win.
With the single point from the OT loss, the Stars (8-18-0-3) moved into sole possession of eighth place ahead of the Komoka Kings. St. Marys is now 3-2 against St. Thomas this season.
Lincolns 8 – Kings 3
At Komoka Saturday night, the Lincolns built period leads of 3-1 and 6-3 en route to a convincing 8-3 victory over the Kings in front of just over 500 spectators.
Twelve different players picked up at least one point for the Lincs, who were coming off an eight-day layoff. Jacob Bloomfield and Mason Mantzavrakos both had two goals and an assist to pace the St. Marys’ offence, while the singles came off the sticks of defenceman Caleb MacDonald, newcomer Griffin Sinden, Kyle Kuznik and captain Cayse Ton (his 10th on a powerplay).
In the playmaking department, defenceman Nathan Small collected four assists and Thomas McLatchie three assists, while Ryan Burke helped set up a pair of goals.
“We’ve kind of had that balanced scoring all year,” McClement said. “Tonight, Bloomfield’s line really lit it up in the first period, Sinden had a couple of points in his first game with us, and Mazur and Mantzavrakos added a couple of points in the third.
“Our offence looked really good, and defensively we played a pretty solid game, too. Offensively, we needed a game like that to get our confidence up.”
Overall, Komoka out-shot St. Marys 39-27. Kyle Curtin made 36 saves for his 12th win.
It was the Lincolns’ third straight win in Komoka this season. In the three road victories, the Lincs out-scored the Kings 19-7.
“It’s not an easy barn to win in,” McClement noted. “Tonight, they had a free-ticket drive and there were more fans than usual. They’re a tough team to play against and they run around and bang bodies, but we kept our heads tonight.”
The Kings slipped to 7-16-1-3 with the loss.
Upcoming: The Lincolns play their third straight road game this Thursday in Sarnia against the Legionnaires, starting at 7:10 p.m. On Friday night, the first-place London Nationals make their first of three trips to St. Marys, with a 7:30 p.m. face-off.
On Sunday, the Lincs head to Chatham Memorial Arena for a 7 o’clock date with the fifth-place Maroons.