By Pat Payton
St. Marys Lincolns can clinch third place outright by winning six of their final eight regular-season games. However, after two big wins on back-to-back nights on home ice this past weekend, coach Trent McClement says it’s important for his team to not look too far ahead.
McClement says the Lincs must focus on one game at a time as they head towards the Western Conference playoffs.
“Coming into this weekend after the three-game losing streak, we knew both of these games were huge,” McClement said after watching Lincolns skate to a convincing 8-1 victory over St. Thomas Stars Saturday night. “We want to start playing a certain way for playoffs, and we wanted to bring that all night tonight.”
The win came just 24 hours after Lincs blanked the visiting Sarnia Legionnaires 4-0.
Coach McClement was especially pleased that his team allowed just one goal against in the two weekend wins.
“We’re trying to limit chances against us,” he said. “Our goals-against early in the season was around 2.5 to 2.8 per game. But since the Christmas break, it’s got up to about four (per game). I think the goalies have been there for us all year, but we’ve kind of let them down.
“Our goal the rest of the season is two goals against (per game).”
After weekend action, Lincolns (24-11-3-4) are seven points ahead of the fourth-place LaSalle Vipers (21-14-1-5). Vipers have one game in hand, and the teams still play each other twice before the end of the regular season.
Lincolns 8 – Stars 1
At the PRC Saturday night, Lincolns jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the game was five minutes old and then cruised to their biggest win against St. Thomas this season.
Lincs went on to build a 7-1 lead by the end of two periods.
“It’s great when you get a quick 3-0 lead like that, and you just hope your players stay focused and stay engaged and we did,” coach McClement said.
“It’s hard when you get ahead that much. Sometimes you try and do fancy things and get out of character, which can create bad habits. But only one goal against in our two home games this weekend, it’s definitely a positive.”
Former Star Brock Trichilo and Ryan Burke paced the St. Marys offence. Trichilo had two goals and an assist, while Burke scored once and helped set up two others. The other singles went to Griffin Sinden, Thomas McLatchie, Kyle Kuznik and defencemen Brayden Hislop and Brennan Long (his first of the season). Riley Coome chipped in three assists as 14 different Lincolns picked up at least one point.
Former Lincoln Tyler Alexander scored the lone St. Thomas goal on a powerplay late in the second period.
Goalie Cy Martin recorded his fifth win for the Lincs, who out-shot the Stars 32-14. The visitors had just six shots over the opening 40 minutes. McClement, meanwhile, noted that Lincolns gave up only five scoring chances all night.
Lincs won the season series with the last-place Stars 4-2. However, four of the first five games between the two teams were decided by just a goal.
Lincolns 4 – Legionnaires 0
At the PRC Friday night, Lincolns snapped a three-game losing skid with a well-deserved shutout victory over the Legionnaires. Lincs peppered Sarnia with 58 shots, including 26 in the opening 20 minutes.
Mason Mantzavrakos opened the scoring at 1:24 of the first period, and the winger’s 20th goal of the campaign would stand up as the game winner. It stayed 1-0 until the latter stages of the second period when Ryan Burke put Lincolns up 2-0 on a powerplay.
Goals by Griffin Sinden and captain Cayse Ton in the final eight minutes of the third sealed the win. Nathan Small drew assists on three of the four St. Marys goals, and the defenceman now has 32 points for the season.
Kyle Curtin made 28 saves for his second shutout of the season, and 15th win overall.
Coach McClement noted that his team allowed only seven scoring chances all night. “We were engaged the whole game, and we played a full 60 mintutes,” he said. “We played a good, hard-nosed game and we out-chanced them 17-7.”
Legionnaires slipped to 15-23-1-3 with their first loss in four games. It was Sarnia’s’ first visit to St. Marys this season. With the win, Lincs evened their season record at 2-2 against the Legionnaires.
Sarnia makes two more trips to the PRC this month.
Vipers 4 – Lincolns 1
At the Vollmer Recreation Complex last Wednesday, a 4-1 LaSalle victory pulled Vipers to within five points of the Lincolns.
With the score deadlocked 1-1 just past the midway mark of the contest, LaSalle scored twice–just 2:28 apart late in the second period–to take the lead for good. The home team tacked on an insurance goal early in the third.
“We battled hard, and we had our chances, but LaSalle always plays well at home,” coach McClement reported. “I thought Curtin played one of his better games this year . . . he kind of kept us in the game. When it was 1-1, we had a couple of breakdowns in our ‘D’ zone and they got the two quick ones.”
Spencer Paradis (powerplay), Hayden Heinrich, Abdul Abouzeeni and Ray Hamlin scored for the Vipers, who out-shot the Lincs 37-27. Kyle Kuznik replied for St. Marys. Curtin went the distance in net for the visitors.
The season record between the two teams is now 2-2. Earlier this season, the teams had three one-goal decisions–with two of the games going to overtime.
This week: Lincolns have back-to-back road games this week. After playing a rescheduled game Tuesday in Strathroy, Lincs make their second trip to LaSalle in a span of eight days on Wednesday (Feb. 5). Game time is 7 p.m.
On Friday night, Lincolns host Sarnia at 7:30 p.m.