GOJHL teams get the green light last week to begin scrimmaging
By Pat Payton
The St. Marys Lincolns are going to be a different looking team in 2020-21.
After a very strong 30-win season and third-place finish in the Western Conference standings, the Lincs were the talk of the town last spring. With a veteran squad, which included six 20-year-olds, the Lincolns knocked off the Strathroy Rockets in five games in the quarter-finals before Covid-19 health concerns forced the cancellation of the remainder of the GOJHL playoffs.
This season, the regular season is scheduled to begin Dec. 1, and there will be a lot of new faces in the Lincs’ line-up. A constant turnover of players from season to season is what most Junior teams are faced with these days.
“I really like our skill level,” St. Marys head coach Trent McClement told the Independent before a workout last Wednesday night in Tavistock. “We are going to be a young team this year, but I can already see that we’re going to have a little more of an offensive upside than our team had last year.
“A lot of these young kids like (Owen) Van Steensel, (Jack) Piper and (Kevin) Perrott along with (Jacob) Bloomfield, (Kyle) Kuznik and (Kobe) Ferreira, who we just acquired from Komoka, are looking really good. As a team, I’m confident we’re farther ahead at this point than I thought we would be.”
After losing key defencemen such as Riley Coome (to age) and Nathan Small and Max Mulder (to Provincial Tier II Jr. ‘A’ teams), McClement was initially worried about the team’s blue-line depth, but those concerns have vanished.
“I think we’re going to be fine back there,” he said. “We might not have that number 1 stud like we had in Riley Coome or Nathan Small, but we have a good group of six, who combined, will be really hard to play against.
“Our goaltending, even though they’re two new faces in Sean Andrus and Ryan Wheeler, they’ve looked really good in these skates.”
McClement, going into his third year as Lincolns’ head coach, says an early priority has been teaching this relatively new group team systems.
“The next step is getting these kids ready for the season,” he said. “We haven’t been on the ice as much as a regular year because of ice limitations, so we have to be creative how we’re teaching these kids. So far, we’ve been allowed to have 3-on-3 scrimmages, but just no contact.”
Full scrimmages now allowed
Last Thursday, Commissioner Mark Tuck gave the green light for GOJHL teams to begin full, five-on-five scrimmages during workouts.
“When we get into November, we’ll see the possibility of some exhibition games,” McClement continued. “Some teams, like Waterloo, have been talking about 3-on-3 tournaments with other teams. But I don’t want to focus too much on 3-on-3 hockey because I think it could create bad habits. Everybody will try to be offensive rather than defensive. My new defence coach (Ryan Shipley) won’t like the looks of that.
“But right now, there’s no clear answer whether we’ll be allowed exhibition games or not. It won’t be until November, 100 percent. Every week, things seem to change.”
The coach says the Lincs’ final skate in Tavistock is Saturday, Sept. 26, then the team will move to the PRC which is opening Oct. 1.
Martin named Kings’ new coach
In other GOJHL news, former Lincolns’ forward Colin Martin is the new head coach of the Komoka Kings. The Londoner, who scored 39 goals for St. Marys in the 2008-09 season, assumes the role after two seasons as an assistant coach with the Kings.
Martin, 29, replaces veteran coach Ron Horvat, who recently stepped down after two seasons as the Komoka skipper.
“Colin brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our bench,” Kings’ owner and GM Roop Chanderdat said on the team website. “He is ready for the next phase of his coaching career and knows our returning players and organization well.”
Martin played a total of 11 seasons in the GOJHL, OHL, USports and ECHL. His career accomplishments include an OHL title, which he won as a member of his home-town London Knights.
Junior hockey notes:
–To date, the Lincolns have rented ice in Tavistock six times and in Exeter once.
–Winger Mason Mantzavrakos, the Lincs’ leading scorer last season with 21 goals and 52 points in 45 games, was recently released by Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Jr. ‘A’ League. The 18-year-old Londoner, who attended the Mooseheads’ training camp as a free agent, had one goal in two pre-season games.
Mantzavrakos is now trying out with Pembroke Lumber Kings, a Provincial Tier II Jr. ‘A’ team. Earlier this year, Pembroke signed goalie Kyle Curtin, who was Lincolns’ regular-season MVP in 2019-20. The St. George native, who turns 19 in October, was also selected first-team all-star goaltender in the Western Conference.
–The OHL has announced that member teams will begin training camps Nov. 15.