By Pat Payton
For 58-plus minutes, last Friday night’s game at the PRC went the St. Marys Lincolns’ way.
However, games are 60 minutes long, and Sarnia Legionnaires made the most of two favourable bounces in the final 80 seconds and pulled out a 2-1 GOJHL victory.
It was a bitter loss for the Lincs, who probably watched any slim chance of gaining a playoff berth evaporate. It also spoiled an outstanding effort by goalie Justin Richer.
“Richer played really well tonight and kept us in the game, but we just couldn’t find that second goal,” assistant GM Greg Smale lamented. “We make it 2-0 and we probably get the win. Instead, we get a bad break and they tie it. And then Sarnia comes right back down and gets a lucky bounce and makes it 2-1.
“I hate to say it, but it’s the story of our season. It’s happened time and time again. You hope to learn from these games, but this one was a tough one for us tonight. But you have to play a full 60-minute game.”
After a scoreless first period, Lincolns’ Mason Goldie (his team-leading 14th) opened the scoring 36 seconds into the middle frame. Legionnaires held a 12-7 edge in shots in the period, and Richer was forced to make several big saves to keep Lincs in front.
Early in the third, Josh Martin and affiliate defenceman Caleb MacDonald both had great chances for the Lincolns. MacDonald’s blast beat Sarnia goalie Nolan DeKoning, but not the post.
Two goals 14 seconds apart
With 2:06 remaining, Legionnaires pulled DeKoning for a sixth attacker, and Nolan DeGurse tied the score with 1:17 left on the clock when he banked in a shot from behind the St. Marys net.
Just 14 seconds later, Jake Vince fired the winner (off a goal post) on Sarnia’s next rush down the ice.
“We kept pressing,” Legionnaires’ coach Derek DiMuzio said. “One of our mottos this year has been resiliency and staying with it. When you keep working, good things will happen.
“You have to give St. Marys credit, they played real hard. But we were under-staffed, and I’m so proud of our effort tonight. We didn’t quit.”
Lincs’ powerplay went 0-for-7 on the night. Sarnia finished with a 29-24 edge in shots, including 9-3 in the final 20 minutes.
The fourth-place Legionnaires improved to 21-14-2-5 with the win. Lincolns have picked up just one point (in an overtime loss) in five games against Sarnia to date.
After weekend action, Lincs (10-28-3-2) sit nine points behind St. Thomas Stars (14-22-3-3), who own the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. One more St. Marys loss or one more St. Thomas win will mathematically eliminate Lincolns from the post-season. Seventh-place Strathroy Rockets (18-24-1-0), meanwhile, moved 12 points ahead of the Lincs with two overtime wins on the weekend.
–With five regular-season games remaining, Lincolns host third-place Chatham Maroons this Friday at 7:30 p.m. On Monday, Feb. 18, Sarnia will again be the visitors for Lincs’ Family Day game, starting at 1:30 p.m.
–Lincolns’ game last Wednesday (Feb. 6) against the Nationals in London was postponed due to inclement weather. The game has been re-scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Western Fair Sports Centre at 7 p.m.
–Captain Blair Butchart severed the tip of his thumb last Friday when the bench door was slammed on his hand. “It was an unfortunate, fluke injury,” Greg Smale told the Independent. Butchart, the Lincs’ leading scorer, hopes to return for the final weekend of the season.
Cayse Ton and Jacob Bloomfield sat out last Friday night with injuries. Bloomfield is apparently done for the season with a separated shoulder.
–Sarnia is also a “banged up” team right now, coach DiMuzio says. At the present time, Legionnaires have five players injured, including veteran Jon Sanderson who is out for the season.
–Last Friday, Lincolns thanked their loyal season ticket-holders and sponsors for their continued support of the team.