By Pat Payton
A six-point weekend has St. Marys Lincolns breathing down the necks of both the London Nationals and Leamington Flyers in the Western Conference standings.
A 7-3 victory over the last-place St. Thomas Stars Sunday afternoon at the PRC was Lincs’ fourth win in a row and moved St. Marys (13-4-1-1) to within one point of the second-place Flyers (14-3-0-1) and to within three points of the front-running Nationals (15-3-0-1).
“The goal for the weekend was to get at least four points,” Lincolns’ coach Trent McClement said. “The Leamington game was obviously a tough game, and when you win that one first you change your objective and then you want six.
“With just 15 skaters, I thought the boys played really well (Sunday). There were stretches today where defensively we had a couple of lapses, but with three games in four days, maybe it was a little fatigue. Today, missing five guys, I’m pretty proud of the guys’ effort.
“But we still have a lot of work to do. We’re in the conversation now to be as good as anybody in this league, and that takes a lot of hard work.”
Lincolns 7 – Stars 3
At the PRC Sunday afternoon, Ryan Burke was named Player-of-the-Game after a strong four-point outing. The rookie centre clicked for two goals and two assists in his best game as a Lincoln to date.
Sophomore forward Joe Mazur also had two goals (one into an empty net) and two assists for the Lincs, while the singles came off the sticks of captain Blair Butchart (his sixth), Ethan Lamoureux and defenceman Caleb MacDonald. Lamoureux also earned two assists.
Cole Schnittker, Russell Oldham and Cole Kimble (powerplay) replied for St. Thomas.
“We’re battling,” coach McClement said. “The guys play for each other, and they love playing for each other and it’s nice to see.
“We have to take care of our home ice,” he continued. “We have the second or third-best road record in the entire GOJHL. You have to beat these teams that our lower than us in the standings, and get some separation from them.
“But you can never feel too comfortable. When you’re higher up in the standings, there’s more pressure. You’re expected to beat a lot of these teams and you have to show up to play every night.”
Lincolns held a 31-22 edge in shots, and Kyle Curtin picked up his ninth net win.
With three players out with injuries and two more suspended, Lincs called up forward Calvin Morrow from the Lambton ‘AAA’ Midgets for Sunday’s game.
“A couple of defensive-zone breakdowns cost us today,” a rather dejected Stars’ coach Rob Coutts said. “We needed a couple of timely saves as well, but I don’t want to beat on our goaltending.
“We need to be better defensively. It’s a commitment to playing good defence, and we’re more worried about the offensive zone.”
St. Thomas fell to 5-12-0-2 with the loss.
Lincolns 4 – Kings 1
At the PRC Friday night, Lincolns kicked off their November schedule with a penalty-filled 4-1 victory over Komoka Kings in front about 400 spectators.
“After a big win in Leamington (Thursday) night, you always wonder if you’re going to go for a high to a low,” coach McClement said. “But you have to be ready to play every game, and we definitely deserved to win the hockey game tonight.”
Second-period goals by Josh Martin and Mason Mantzavrakos–just over four minutes apart–put Lincs ahead to stay. The Mantzavrakos goal came on a powerplay and was his team-leading 11th of the season. Late in the middle frame, Kings had three straight 5-on-3 powerplays, but couldn’t get a puck past Kyle Curtin.
“It seemed like it was quick-sand late in the second period and we couldn’t get out of it there for a while,” McClement joked. “But our penalty-kill has been good this season, and Curty (Curtin) has been good for us, too. And it’s nice to see our offence start to click a little bit as well.”
After a picture breakaway goal by Lincolns’ centre Blair Butchart early in the third, Komoka’s Jacob Rochford spoiled Curtin’s bid for a shutout with 7:53 remaining.
With just under two minutes to play, a flare-up resulted in four players picking up suspensions for fighting–including Lincs’ defenceman Riley Coome (three games) and Mantzavrakos (one game).
Carter Schoonderwoerd (his fifth) completed the scoring with 42 seconds left on a 5-on-3 St. Marys powerplay. Defenceman Nathan Small earned his third assist of the night on the goal.
Overall, Lincolns out-shot the Kings 32-24. The two sides combined for 84 penalty minutes.
Komoka slipped to 6-7-1-1 with the loss.
Lincolns 3 – Flyers 2
In Leamington last Thursday night, Lincolns edged the Flyers 3-2 — handing the second-place Leamington club its first home-ice defeat this season.
Flyers had started the current season 8-0 at the Kinsmen Rec. Centre. For the Lincs, meanwhile, it was their 11th victory of the season–matching the total number of wins they achieved all of last season.
Nathan Small, Carter Schoonderwoerd and Justin McIntyre scored for St. Marys, with Mason Mantzavrakos contributing two assists. Cam Symons and Josh King replied for Leamington, which watched a six-game win streak come to an end.
Lincolns erased an early 1-0 deficit with first-period goals by Small (powerplay) and Schoonderwoerd. McIntyre’s fifth of the season, early in the middle frame, gave the visitors a 3-1 lead and it stood up as the game winner. King’s shorthanded goal late in the second completed the scoring.
Overall, Flyers out-shot the Lincs 37-19, including 15-4 in the third. The home team held a 6-on-4 man advantage for the final 1:40 of the game. Gleb Poliakov made 35 saves for his fourth win of the season.
“We played a really good road game,” coach McClement reported. “Gleb played well; it was a good morale victory for him. It should give him some confidence and our team some confidence. He’s a new goalie for us, and now we know we can beat anybody with him.
“When you can go into Leamington and win, it’s always a special win.”
Upcoming: This weekend, Lincolns host Strathroy Rockets Friday at 7:30 p.m., before travelling to Chatham Sunday for a 7 o’clock face-off with the Maroons.