By Pat Payton
Josh Diamond shone for the Strathroy Rockets last Friday night at the PRC.
The diminutive 19-year-old Strathroy native kicked out 45 shots and stood his ground all night to steal a 1-0 win for the visiting Rockets over the St. Marys Lincolns. Lincs were the only team in the 26-team GOJHL with no regulation-time losses until Strathroy ended that streak Friday.
It also extended Lincolns’ goal-less streak at home to six periods. But coach Trent McClement wasn’t too concerned following the game.
“I thought we played well enough to win,” he said. “Sometimes you’re going to win games that you don’t deserve, and sometimes you lose games that you should have won. We had 45 shots tonight and I thought we deserved to win the game.
“Everybody worked hard, and I’m proud of how the boys are working. Everybody’s mad about the loss, and that’s how they should be. We’re doing all the right things and throwing pucks at the net, but we’re a little snake-bitten right now. At least it’s this time of the year, and not closer to playoffs.”
After weekend action, Lincolns have a 7-1-1-1 record, good for 16 points and third place in the Western Conference standings. London Nationals (9-1-0-0), with their only loss coming against St. Marys, sit in first place with 18 points — one more than Leamington Flyers (8-2-0-1). LaSalle Vipers (5-3-1-2) and Chatham Maroons (5-3-1-2) are tied for fourth place, three points behind the Lincs.
Rockets 1 – Lincolns 0
At the PRC Friday night, Lincolns peppered Diamond with 45 shots, but couldn’t get a puck behind the Rockets’ goaltender. Lincs out-shot the visitors 17-6 in the final 20 minutes, and 45-20 overall.
Strathroy’s Zach Berriault scored the only goal of the game, deflecting a point shot past Kyle Curtin at 1:35 of the third. It came on the return rush after Diamond had stoned St. Marys captain Blair Butchart from point-blank range.
After Rockets took the lead, Lincolns spent the remainder of the period trying to get the equalizer. They even had a four-minute powerplay early in the frame, and plenty of chances, but Diamond and the Strathroy defence managed to keep the puck out of their net.
“That’s two games in a row where we haven’t scored a goal at home,” coach McClement noted. “We just have to find a way to score those dirty goals. We threw a lot of pucks at the net, but we need to get those second chances. We were trying to get those one-shot killer goals.
“It was a tough one. There were a lot of bounces where you thought the puck was going in. It was just one of those nights, and a learning lesson for us.”
It was a cautiously-played game for the first two periods. Neither side looked like they wanted to make a mistake.
Rockets improved to 4-2-1-2 with the win, moving them temporarily into a tie for fourth place.
“Josh (Diamond) definitely gets high marks tonight; he stood on his head for us,” Strathroy coach Jason Furlong said. “He does whatever it takes to make a save.
“After the first time we played St. Marys, we knew it would be a defensive battle and it showed again tonight with a 1-0 score. We did a good job defensively and took care of our own end.”
Lincolns 3 – Legionnaires 1
On Thursday night at the Sarnia Arena, Ethan Lamoureux’s goal at 15:32 of the third period snapped a 1-1 tie and it stood up as the game winner in a 3-1 Lincolns’ victory over the Legionnaires.
It was a defensive battle for the first 40 minutes as the two teams went into the third deadlocked 0-0.
Logan Gardner gave Legionnaires a 1-0 lead at the 1:06 mark on a powerplay. It stayed that way until Mason Mantzavrakos (his seventh) tied it on a St. Marys powerplay at 9:35. Lamoureux’s winner came with 4:28 left to play. Thomas McLatchie clinched it for the Lincs with an empty-netter (his seventh) with exactly one minute remaining.
“This year, this team has a lot of character,” coach McClement said. “Even when we get down in games, we have a lot of confidence that we can climb back and win any hockey game. Once we got the lead, we shut them down.”
Lincolns out-shot Sarnia in every period and 35-19 overall. Gleb Poliakov (3-0) earned his third net win of the young season for the visitors. “Gleb played a good game; it was a good confidence booster for him,” McClement added.
Legionnaires slipped to 2-5-0-1 with the loss and remain at the bottom of the WC standings.
Upcoming: This Friday, Lincolns host the Komoka Kings at 7:30 p.m. Lincs then hit the road for four straight games. On Saturday, they play the Rockets in Strathroy at 7:30 p.m., and then head to Western Fair in London next Wednesday, Oct. 16 for another big game against the Nationals at 7 p.m.