By Pat Payton
There were at least five firsts for St. Marys Lincolns last Friday night in their 4-3 GOJHL victory over Leamington Flyers at the PRC.
New goaltender Cyrus Martin won his first start with the Lincs and was named the team’s player-of-the-game.
Veteran winger Cayse Ton played his first game as the Lincolns’ captain and he responded with a goal and an assist. Recently acquired forward Kyle Kuznik played his first home game for St. Maryts, and scored his first goal with the team. He also picked up an assist.
Defenceman Jordan Daer completed the night of firsts with his first goal this season, and it stood up as the game winner.
With the hard-fought victory, the third-place Lincs (16-6-1-3) pulled to within five points of Leamington (20-6-0-1) in the Western Conference standings — with a game in hand.
“It’s early in the season, but these games are huge,” St. Marys coach Trent McClement said. “Games like tonight kind of gets you ready for the playoffs. It was a playoff atmosphere in here tonight and we have to treat them like that.”
Lincolns 4 – Flyers 3
At the PRC Friday night, about 375 spectators watched Lincolns boost their home record to 8-3-0-1 while improving their season record to 2-1 against the Flyers.
Kuznik, Ton (his ninth), Riley Coome (powerplay) and Daer scored for the Lincs, who built period leads of 2-1 and 3-2. Dylan Weston, with two powerplay goals, and Jacob Kalandyk replied for Leamington.
Early in the third, goaltender Martin stood tall for St. Marys as Flyers pushed for the equalizer. Shortly after a Leamington powerplay, Daer connected to put the Lincolns up 4-2. The visitors pulled to within a goal at 9:30 with their second powerplay tally of the night. Flyers pulled their goalie twice in the last two minutes, but couldn’t get the contest into extra time.
“We had a comfortable lead at 3-1, but we let these teams back in the game by giving them powerplays,” McClement said after the game. “We’re taking penalties when we shouldn’t be taking penalties. You have to protect yourself, but not take penalties.
“It was a good game and a big win for us, but we have to stay more disciplined. It’s an area we definitely have to improve on.”
Overall, Leamington out-shot St. Marys 34-21. Martin finished with 31 saves.
“It was a high-intensity battle, but I think the referees played a bigger part in the game than they should have,” Flyers’ coach Cam Crowder said. “I thought it was a poorly-officiated game, and it could have even been a better game than it was.
“St. Marys knocked their net off at the end of the game, and they don’t call a penalty. It should have been a penalty shot,” he added.
With forwards Jacob Bloomfield, Braeden Burdett and Josh Martin sitting out with injuries, Lincs called up affiliate skater Logan Mastrandrea from London Jr. Knights ‘AAA’ Major Midgets.
Nationals 6 – Lincolns 2
After two wins earlier this season in London, Lincolns lost for the first time at the Western Fair Sports Centre last Wednesday night. The Nationals jumped out to a 4-1 second-period lead and went on to down the Lincs 6-2 in front of about 550 spectators.
The Nats, who are starting to build a big first-place lead, improved to 23-3-0-1 with the win. London, meanwhile, now makes three straight trips to St. Marys — twice this month (Dec. 13 and 20) and once next month (Jan. 10).
Last Wednesday, Nationals held just a 2-1 lead at the midway point in the game. But the home team began to pull away with two goals before the end of the second period and two more in the first two minutes of the third.
Cohen Kiteley scored twice for London, including one on a powerplay, while Michael McKnight, Josh LeBlanc, Jacob Chantler and Eric Guest added the singles. Mason Mantzavrakos scored the two Lincolns’ goals (his 14th and 15th), with Joe Mazur and Ryan Burke assisting on both.
Cyrus Martin replaced starter Kyle Curtin after the sixth Nats’ goal. Martin stopped all 10 shots he faced. Overall, London out-shot St. Marys 43-29.
Defenceman Riley Coome (another commitment), and forwards Josh Martin and Braeden Burdett (both injured) were not in the Lincolns’ line-up.
“We’ve been a little shortstaffed lately with injures and player movement,” coach McClement said. “I thought London had a lot of puck possession and puck possession leads to long shifts, and as the game went on our guys got a little tired. It’s no excuse, but against a team like London, they have a lot of goal-scorers who can score goals pretty quickly.
“It was like a perfect storm for them. We had beat them two times in a row there, so they were kind of gunning for us. We got some heavy legs as the game went on, and we made a couple of mistakes.”
Upcoming: With the Snipers’ ringette tournament in St. Marys this weekend, Lincolns do not have a home game on Friday night. They have three consecutive road games, beginning Saturday in Komoka at 7:15 p.m. On Sunday, Lincs head to St. Thomas to meet the Stars at 7:30 p.m.