By Pat Payton
CHATHAM – St. Marys Lincolns managed to pick up just one point in two Western Conference games this past weekend.
Lincs earned a point after losing 3-2 in overtime to the home-town Maroons here Sunday night at Chatham’s Memorial Arena. But every point is big in the competitive nine-team division as the third-place Lincolns (13-5-1-2) battle to keep pace with the front-running London Nationals (17-3-0-1) and second-place Leamington Flyers (16-4-0-1), who both won on the weekend.
After Sunday’s games, St. Marys sits with 29 points, but now has just a six-point lead on the fourth-place LaSalle Vipers (10-8-1-2). Eight points back are the fifth-place Maroons (8-8-1-4), who have gained five of a possible six points since changing head coaches recently.
“It’s always nice to get that point on the road,” Lincs’ coach Trent McClement said. “I thought we had enough chances to win it in regulation. But Chatham had a lot of chances, too.
“Defensively, we could have been a little better tonight. Offensively, we had our chances. We had a couple of breakaways, but didn’t bury them. You score on one of those breakaways and you win the hockey game. Curty (Kyle Curtin) also made some big stops for us, too.
“It was kind of a back-and-forth game,” he added.
Maroons 3 – Lincolns 2 (OT)
In Chatham Sunday, Dallas Maurovic’s powerplay goal just 43 seconds into 4-on-4 overtime gave Maroons the extra point. The game winner came just six seconds after Lincolns’ defenceman Nathan Small was penalized for tripping.
It was the only shot in overtime.
“In my opinion, it’s not a penalty that should be called in overtime,” coach McClement reported. “The goal was kind of a breakdown on our part killing the penalty. They had a guy go to the net and we didn’t take him. But it was a nice goal by Chatham, well executed . . . a little tip at the net.”
Tate Bowden opened the scoring for Chatham at 8:53 of the second period. Lincs’ winger Cayse Ton tied it 1-1 just under three minutes later on a powerplay. Linemates Blair Butchart and Mason Mantzavrakos drew assists.
Braedon Caetano put the Maroons back on top at 2:25 of the third. Ton (his sixth) forced extra time with 5:09 left in regulation. Butchard and Mantzavrakos again assisted.
Overall, St. Marys out-shot Chatham 41-34, including 18-11 in the third. Curtin made 31 saves for the Lincolns.
With two defencemen (Riley Coome and Brayden Hislop) out of the line-up, Lincs called up 15-year-old Cole Jenken, of Ilderton, a Minor Midget defenceman from the Elgin-Middlesex ‘AAA’ Chiefs.
Lincolns continue to have a good road record with a 7-2-1-1 mark to date.
Rockets 3 – Lincolns 1
At the PRC Friday night, Lincolns watched a four-game winning streak come to an end when they dropped a 3-1 decision to Strathroy Rockets in front of about 400 spectators.
Rockets, who played another strong road game, are now 2-0 on St. Marys ice this season. They edged the Lincs 1-0 in early October at the PRC.
In last Friday’s game, Lincolns out-shot Strathroy 27-16, but struggled to score against the defensive-minded Rockets again.
“For some reason, we have trouble scoring against Strathroy,” coach McClement said. “I think we need to keep it a little more simple. That’s the kind of team we are; we have to score those dirty goals.
“Strathroy kind of clogs the middle of the ice, and takes away your chances. They’re also a good back-checking team. I think we have to be a better cycling team against them, and wear them down. But they play us well. We’ve had trouble against Strathroy over the last couple of years. We don’t score a lot of goals against them.”
After Rockets’ defenceman Aidan Burns opened the scoring early in the middle frame, only a couple of huge stops by goalie Gleb Poliakov later in the period kept Lincs in the contest.
Riley Wood fired what proved to be the winner on a powerplay at 7:42 of the third, putting the visitors up 2-0. Already on a 5-on-3 powerplay, Lincolns pulled Poliakov for a sixth attacker and Carter Schoonderwoerd (his sixth) banged in a loose puck with 2:32 to play.
Lincs continued to press, and pulled Poliakov again, but former Lincoln Daniel Aspro clinched it for Strathroy with an empty-netter with 58 seconds remaining.
“Just like the last time here (in St. Marys), another close game, another great game by both sides,” Rockets’ coach Jason Furlong said. “I thought the guys battled hard right to the end, and blocked some shots when we needed it.
“We try and focus on the defensive side of the puck first. We take care of our zone, and get pucks out at our first opportunity. I thought our guys did a great job of that tonight.”
Lincs finished the game with just four defencemen after losing Brayden Hislop and Max Mulder with injuries over the course of the night.
For the Rockets, who gained their fifth point against St. Marys, they finished the weekend in sixth place with an 8-9-2-2 record.
This weekend: Lincolns have no home game with the Santa Claus parade scheduled for this Friday night. Lincs are in St. Thomas Sunday to play the last-place Stars at 7:30 p.m.