Defenceman Sterling Wolters stays hot with two more goals for St. Marys
By Pat Payton
STRATFORD – It was two one-goal losses, but Director of Hockey Operations/GM Greg Smale was encouraged by the play of the St. Marys Lincolns here last Friday night at the Allman Arena.
The home-town Warriors won both exhibition mini-games 4-3, including the second one in overtime. Both contests were 4-on-4, with no-body contact, and 55 minutes (straight time) in length.
It was the third consecutive Friday night that the two teams met for pre-season games in Stratford as they wait to begin GOJHL regular-season action.
“Overall, we played much better than the previous week,” Smale reported. “We definitely played more as a team, with systems, and we were playing together as a unit.
“We had a couple of defensive breakdowns, but that’s going to happen when you play 5-on-5 one week and then 4-on-4 another week. All in all, we were pretty pleased with our performance. There were a lot more positives than negatives.
“We competed really hard, and we’re getting better every week and that’s all you can ask for. I think the process is probably more important than the outcomes right now. It’s exciting seeing the team moving forward,” he added.
Late goal waved off
In the first game, Lincolns’ rookie Jack Piper tied the score 1-1 less than a minute after Stratford had grabbed an early lead. Defenceman Sterling Wolters then put St. Marys ahead 2-1 after taking a perfect pass at the doorstep from Cole Schnittker.
After back-to-back goals put the Warriors in front 3-2, defenceman Jordan Daer blasted home the tying goal on a powerplay.
Trailing 4-3 in the final minute, Lincs pulled goalie Ryan Wheeler for an extra attacker. The Lincolns thought they had tied it again when Wolters put the puck in the Stratford net, but the officials ruled that regulation time had expired.
Lincs battle back in nightcap
In the second contest, the Lincolns battled back from a 3-1 deficit to force extra time.
Wolters, with his second of the night, opened the scoring with a nice low shot from the blue line. Three consecutive goals put the Warriors in the driver’s seat, but the Lincs refused to quit. The comeback started with seven minutes remaining. Justin McIntyre pulled St. Marys to within a goal when he broke in alone and neatly deked Stratford goalie Tyler Parr. Just seconds later, defenceman Thomas Munro tied it when he connected from the slot.
Early in overtime, former Lincoln Carter Schoonderwoerd scored the winner for the Warriors.
Goalie Sean Andrus went the distance for the Lincs.
–Sterling Wolters now has seven goals in five pre-season games in Stratford. “His shot is very heavy and he’s dangerous anywhere inside the blue line in that rink,” noted GM Smale.
Wolters, 18, was acquired from St. Thomas Stars in the off-season. He hails from the Essex area.
–Both the Lincolns and Warriors are now off for the Christmas break.
Travel forces forward Kuznik to join other team
In other St. Marys Lincolns news, talented forward Kyle Kuznik has left the Lincs and joined the Collingwood Blues of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL).
“Kyle has signed with Collingwood,” GM Smale told the Independent last week. “He had been travelling back and forth from the Orillia area (to St. Marys), and it’s been really hard on him.
“In a regular season with us, Kyle would have been going to Fanshawe College and been an important part of this team and really thrived here. But with all the driving from Orillia, he decided to play closer to home. I understand that. We thanked him for his time here, and wished all the best. I’m hoping it’s a good decision for him. He was nothing but great for us and hopefully it works out for him.”
In return for Kuznik, 19, the Lincs will get cash considerations.
In probably the steal of the season, Smale obtained Kuznik a year ago from the Stratford Warriors, who weren’t playing the swift-skating winger.
Kuznik instantly became one of St. Marys’ best players. In 26 games, he clicked for 13 goals and 23 points–almost a point a game. Three of his goals were shorthanded tallies. He then added two points (1-1) in six playoff games.
Smale says there’s a chance that Kuznik could come back and play his final year of Junior with the Lincolns next season. “We left the door open for him,” the GM said.
The Lincs won’t be filling Kuznik’s roster spot at the present time.
“We’re in no rush right now,” Smale says. “We’re going through our scouting reports and looking at players who are available. But while we’re playing exhibition games, there is really no hurry. It just opens up another opportunity for the guys on our team. We don’t want to crowd that too much.”