By Pat Payton
CHATHAM – A 30-win season!
That’s what St. Marys Lincolns achieved with a 6-2 victory over the home-town Maroons here at Chatham Memorial Arena Sunday night
Lincs finished the 2019-20 regular schedule in third place with a 30-13-3-4 record, good for 67 points. They open a Western Conference quarter-final playoff series this Friday, hosting the sixth-place Strathroy Rockets (19-26-3-2) at 7:30 p.m.
For the record, it’s been 10 seasons since Lincolns reached the 30-win plateau. They won 31 games in the 2009-10 season after winning 36 in 2008-09 and 31 in 2007-08. St. Marys won 28 games in 2010-11, but didn’t win even 20 games again until the 2016-17 campaign.
Lincs, meanwhile, posted a 7-2 record in their nine games in February.
Lincolns 6 – Maroons 2
On Sunday, speedy centre Brock Trichilo scored a pair of goals as Lincolns won for the second time on Chatham ice this season.
The 20-year-old Trichilo has certainly added a little scoring punch to the Lincs’ attack since being acquired from St. Thomas Stars at the Jan. 10 trade deadline along with another veteran forward Jake Robinson. Trichilo had 10 goals and 16 points in Lincolns’ final 14 regular-season games.
Kyle Kuznik, Jacob Bloomfield, Ryan Brown and Thomas McLatchie also scored for St. Marys, which built period leads of 2-0 and 3-2. The visitors clinched the victory with three unanswered goals in the final 20 minutes. Ryan Burke was the playmaker with three assists, while affiliate skater Diego Sabino helped set up two goals.
Lucas Fancy and Adrian Stubberfield answered for the fifth-place Maroons (21-18-1-10). Lincs out-shot Chatham 35-30, with Cy Martin making 28 saves for the win.
It was a meaningless game in the standings for both teams as all playoff match-ups were officially decided Saturday night. Lincolns travelled to the game with 15 skaters and two goalies.
“It’s hard to get up for these games that don’t really mean anything, but we were playing for 30 wins,” coach Trent McClement said. “We didn’t have the best second period tonight, but our first and third were really good.”
Lincs won the season series between the two teams, 4-2.
Lincolns 5 – Rockets 2
At the PRC Friday night, Lincolns built period leads of 2-0 and 4-1 against the Rockets in a playoff preview. A season-high crowd, estimated at 1,000 spectators, watched the game on Lincs ‘Fill the Rink Night.’
It was a feisty affair, with the two teams combining for 90 minutes in penalties. Lincolns scored three times with the man advantage en route to a 5-2 victory.
Ryan Burke paced the St. Marys offence with two goals, giving the rookie centre 13 for the season. Burke has now scored six times in the last six games. The singles came off the sticks of Justin McIntyre, Ryan Brown and captain Cayse Ton (his 19th). Defenceman Riley Coome collected three assists, while Kyle Kuznik–who played a strong game–helped set up a pair of goals.
Zach Berriault and Carson Perry replied for Strathroy.
After scoring just one goal in two previous games against the Rockets at the PRC, Lincs finally got to goalie Josh Diamond. Lincolns out-shot the visitors 15-4 in the opening 20 minutes and grabbed their early lead on goals by McIntyre and Burke (powerplay).
Strathroy attempted to push back, resulting in a very physical second period. After a powerplay goal by Brown at the 6:21 mark, Rockets closed the gap to 3-1 on a controversial goal by Berriault just over three minutes later. Lincs unsuccessfully argued that the puck didn’t enter the St. Marys net and were given two 10-minute misconducts. Ton restored a three-goal advantage for Lincolns in the final minute of the period.
The teams exchanged goals early in the third, with Perry and Burke (powerplay) the marksmen for their respective teams. In between the two goals, veterans Ton and Strathroy defenceman Wes Poirier engaged in a spirited fight at centre ice.
Overall, Lincolns out-shot the Rockets 42-18, including 31-10 over the first two periods. Kyle Curtin (his 19th win) out-duelled Diamond for the net win.
‘A statement game’
When asked if it was a “statement game,” coach McClement replied: “It’s a game where you don’t really want to show your cards before playoffs, but Strathroy had also beat us three times and we had only beat them once,” he said. “So we did want to send a statement.
“But we wanted to make sure everybody was healthy coming out of the game and no one was suspended. That was our biggest goal. You always want to win every game, but it’s the team you’re playing in the playoffs and you want to set a tone. We stood our ground tonight, and we kind of showed them if they wanted to take stupid penalties, then we’re going to score powperplay goals against them. We got three powerplay goals, so it’s something for them to think about going into the playoffs.
“In my opinion, on paper, we’re the better hockey team, but Strathroy plays a low-scoring, scrappy style. Diamond has had our number all year, but we kind of figured him out tonight a little bit. We wanted to learn a couple of things about them tonight, but at the same time just get through the game.”
After beating the Rockets for just the second time this season, McClement said the win would give his team some added confidence going into the post-season.
“It was a confidence booster for us, knowing we can beat this team,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to use the trap tonight. There’s only so many ways teams can beat it. You learn things that they might want to try, so you’re definitely learning things every time you play a team.”
Note: It was Lincolns’ biggest 50-50 draw of the season last Friday night. Brian Boyd, father of Lincs’ president Brandon, took home $969.50.