By Pat Payton
KOMOKA – St. Marys Lincolns’ playoff aspirations took a small blow here Saturday night.
But despite a 4-0 loss to the home-town Kings, Lincs are still confident they will own a Western Conference playoff spot when the regular season winds up late next month.
In their previous four games, Lincolns had picked up six of a possible eight points to charge back into the playoff picture. Saturday’s loss was St. Marys’ first since Dec. 20.
“We’re still a confident bunch,” coach Trent McClement said on Sunday. “Even though we had a lull (Saturday) night, we’re really rolling right now. For a while now, I’ve said that we can catch St. Thomas. They’re a veteran team and things could implode from the inside out down there.
“We have all the confidence in the world that we’re going to make the playoffs. We’re not quitting and we’re not going to doubt ourselves. That’s the way we’re approaching things right now.”
Following weekend action, Lincs (9-22-3-1) sit five points behind the slumping St. Thomas club (11-17-3-2), six behind the Kings (13-17-1-1) and eight behind Strathroy Rockets (15-17-0-0).
The good news is, Lincolns have 13 regular-season games remaining, including eight on home ice. Going into Wednesday’s game in London, St. Thomas had 15 games left, but only seven at home. Stars are a dismal 1-10-2 in their last 13 games.
Lincs have one more game against both St. Thomas and Komoka, and two against Strathroy.
Kings 4 – Lincolns 0
In the huge four-point game Saturday in Komoka, Lincolns lost for the fourth time in five games against the Kings this season. Lincs could have pulled to within two points of Komoka with a victory.
Not making excuses, but coach McClement said it was his team’s third game in four nights and fatigue may have been a factor.
“We’re a young team, and we went from an emotional high Friday night to kind of a low,” he said. “We didn’t have the best start and Komoka scored an early goal and it kind of deflated us. It was a game where it seemed like we couldn’t get anything going. It was kind of a boring game where neither team got it going.
“They scored on their chances and we didn’t. It was like we were stuck in quick-sand and couldn’t get ourselves out of it.”
Kings opened up a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by Kurt Watson and Chase Strychaluk. Komoka sniper Joel Mazzilli made it 3-0 on a powerplay at 2:46 of the middle frame. Lincolns took four consecutive penalties in the period. Joe Capirchio tacked on another insurance goal with just under four minutes remaining in the third.
Overall, Kings out-shot the Lincs 33-21. Nathan Young made 21 saves for the shutout, while veteran Justin Richer (29 saves) went the distance for the Lincolns.
It was only the third time this season that Lincs have been shut out. The two teams meet again Jan. 18 in St. Marys.
Lincolns 4 – Maroons 4 (2OT)
On Friday night, one of the biggest crowds of the season watched one of the most entertaining GOJHL games at the PRC this season. Lincolns battled back from an early 3-1 deficit to earn a hard-fought 4-4 overtime tie and a huge point against Chatham Maroons–one of the best teams in the conference.
It was a gutsy 70-minute effort by the Lincs, who refused to quit and picked up their sixth point in the last four games.
“It was a big point for us tonight,” coach McClement agreed. “We went over some stuff at Thursday’s practice, how to stop their controlled breakouts and everybody bought in tonight. Chatham didn’t know what to do. It was a team effort.
“The boys are showing that they are growing and they’re adapting. Everybody is buying in and to play these systems you have to trust each other, and it’s showing on the ice right now.”
After Lincolns’ Cayse Ton (powerplay) opened the scoring at 2:27 of the first period, the veteran Maroons showed their firepower with three goals in a span of less than four minutes–grabbing a 3-1 lead before the nine-minute mark of the frame. Griffin Robinson, with two, and Eddie Schulz connected for Chatham.
After being out-shot 17-8 in the opening 20 minutes, Lincs took the play to the visitors in a physical second period and tied the score 3-3 on goals by Josh Martin and Ton. Ton’s goal came with just 27 seconds left in the period after some sustained Lincolns’ pressure.
Tanner Hertel (his ninth) put the St. Marys fans on their feet when he gave the home team a 4-3 lead at 10:38 of the third. However, Maroons tied it just under three minutes later, directly off a face-off loss in their own zone.
Both sides had good chances to win it in OT. Robinson hit a goal-post in the first extra period, and Lincs came very close on a powerplay early in the second five-minute overtime.
Overall, Chatham out-shot St. Marys 41-37. Lincolns out-shot the Maroons 8-5 in OT. Goalie Kyle Curtin had a strong game, going head-to-head against former St. Marys netminder Tristan Lewis.
Ton was named Lincs’ player-of-the-game. Chatham moved into a tie for second place with the single point.
Lincolns 4 – Vipers 3
At LaSalle last Wednesday night, Lincolns got the New Year off to a great start with a huge 4-3 victory over the fifth-place Vipers. The two points gave Lincs five of a possible six points in their last three games.
The win also improved Lincolns’ record to 2-2 against LaSalle.
The teams were tied 1-1 after the opening period and 2-2 after 40 minutes. Goals by Justin McIntyre (his seventh) and affiliate player Andrew Casasanta (a 16-year-old forward from Brantford) in the first three minutes of the third put St. Marys up 4-2. Colton Krzeminski pulled Vipers to within a goal with 9:06 remaining, but the home team could get no closer.
Shots were 37-14 in favour of LaSalle, including 14-3 in the final 20 minutes.
Captain Blair Butchart (shorthanded) and Joe Mazur (his 12th on a powerplay) also scored for the Lincs, with Butchart and Carson McMillan earning two assists apiece as well. Matt Carvalho and Aaron Shaw scored the other Vipers’ goals.
After missing eight straight games with an upper-body injury, Justin Richer went the distance for his sixth win. “Richer had a great game coming back; he stood on his head and won us that game,” Butchart said. “And we scored goals when it mattered.”
Upcoming: Lincolns have just one game this weekend, hosting Leamington Flyers on Service Club Appreciation Night Friday at 7:30 p.m. Members are encouraged to pick up their free passes from their respective clubs.