By Pat Payton
Going into this week, with just six regular-season games remaining, head coach Trent McClement acknowledged that St. Marys Lincolns would have to win five of those contests for any chance of securing the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
Four of Lincs’ six remaining games are on home ice. “If we don’t beat St. Thomas, we’ll have to win five,” McClement told the Independent early last week. Lincolns lost 5-1 to the Stars last Friday.
St. Marys (10-27-3-2) started this current week seven points behind St. Thomas (13-22-3-3), which also has a game in hand. Lincs play a road game Wednesday (Feb. 6) in London against the Nationals, and then host Sarnia Legionnaires Friday at 7:30 p.m. After that, Lincolns complete their 48-game GOJHL schedule with home games against Chatham, Sarnia and Strathroy, and then a road game against Chatham.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” McClement said last week. “Every game is a shift at a time, a period at a time. We’ll make adjustments as we go.”
McClement likes Lincs’ remaining schedule. “We haven’t been super dominant at home, but we’re a hard team to play against in our rink,” he says. “Our remaining games are against teams that we’ve played well against. Chatham is a top echelon team in the league and we’ve played them hard.”
–Winger Carson McMillan is Lincolns’ player-of-the-month for January. He received a plaque from Lincs’ vice-president Bill Lowe prior to last Friday night’s game.
In nine games last month, McMillan had three goals–including an overtime winner–and eight points. The 17-year-old Sudbury native is currently second in team scoring with nine goals and 31 points in 38 games. He has a team-leading two game winners this season.
–The 2nd annual ‘Blue in the Barn For Alzheimer’s’ game was sponsored by the Lincolns last Friday night. Representatives from the Alzheimer Society of Perth County were on hand. The society exists to advocate and promote the development of support services, education and research for those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and their caregivers.
–Leamington Flyers have interesting home and away records. At home, Flyers have the best record (20-1-0-0) in the entire GOJHL. However, on the road, Leamington is a modest 8-7-1-3.
Flyers (28-8-1-3), meanwhile, moved into sole possession of first place with a 4-1 victory in Chatham Sunday. Heading into action this week, Leamington is 12-1 in its last 13 games and has a one-point lead on London (28-10-1-2), with a game in hand.
–Komoka (18-20-1-2) is currently in sixth place, but coach Ron Horvat thinks his Kings can move up to fifth or possibly even fourth spot with a late-season push.
“Our mindset is, we don’t look back, we look at teams ahead of us,” Horvat said during a recent stop in St. Marys. “We’d like to finish as high as we can. You have to get on a run . . . you shoot as high as you can.”
Horvat is very impressed with the parity in the Western Conference this season. He said there are no easy games on any night.
“Teams play well at home in this league; it’s always a tough night on the road,” he said. “Goaltending is big in this league and special teams are huge as well. If you have a good powerplay and good penalty-killing, you’re going to be in every game.”
Komoka recently made a trade with London, obtaining two young players from the Nationals. “I like what we have here,” Horvat summed up. “We got faster with that trade (that sent Wes Dobbin to the Nats). We kind of acknowledged that we needed some speed and it was a good deal that we made.”
–LaSalle Vipers started the 2018-19 season with two goalies who are no longer with the team. Coach John Nelson says the two netminders Vipers have added are a big reason his team is in fifth place in the Western standings.
“We’ve gone through a few goaltenders this year, and we finally settled on Will Tragge and Jackson Bernard,” Nelson said during a recent stop in St. Marys. “They’ve been great additions for us. I think they’ve given us more confidence to be a little more offensive and take a few more chances.
“A lot of the scores in this league are one-goal games. If you look at our record, we have a whack of one-goal games. Come playoff time, it’s going to be no different. You’re going to need a goaltender who can make those big saves when you need them, and maybe even steal you a game.”
Nelson admitted that he’d like to see LaSalle (19-17-2-3) finish fourth overall and get home-ice advantage in the first round of playoffs. “I think that’s a realistic goal for our team.”