By Pat Payton
KOMOKA – You have to give St. Marys Lincolns high marks for resiliency.
Lincs maintained their grip on third place in the Western Conference standings by fighting back to win two GOJHL games this past weekend.
Here Saturday night, Lincolns improved their road record to 8-2-1-2 with a 6-4 victory over the home-town Kings.
“In this league, there’s a lot of tough barns to play in,” Lincolns’ coach Trent McClement said. “It just goes to show you the character of this team . . . on the road or at home. We’re a hard team to play against. On any given night, we can beat anybody.”
Saturday’s win improved St. Marys’ third-place record to 15-5-1-3, good for 34 points and a four-point lead on LaSalle Vipers (13-9-1-3). Lincs started the weekend with a one-point lead on the Vipers.
Lincolns 6 – Kings 4
At Komoka Saturday, Lincolns let early 3-0 and 4-1 leads slip away, but two unanswered third-period goals gave St. Marys its third win in four games against the Kings to date.
First-period goals by Ethan Lamoureux, Quinton Pepper and defenceman Riley Coome (powerplay) staked the Lincs to a 3-0 lead. After Dario Beljo scored for Komoka in the final minute of the opening frame, Mason Mantzavrakos (his 13th on a powerplay) restored a three-goal advantage for Lincolns 55 seconds into the second period.
Late in the period, Lincs took a string of four consecutive penalties and the Kings tied the score 4-4 on goals by Tylor Lovie, Dawson Zheng (powerplay) and Toby Rizzo (powerplay). The three goals came in a span of just over three minutes.
“As a coach, you don’t like it when you’re up 4-1 and you take a bunch of penalties and let them back in the game,” coach Trent McClement said. “But we were resilient and we didn’t put our heads down. We just continued to work and we battled back.
“It was a big weekend for us and we needed these four points. You can’t say enough about our team this year. They come to battle . . . it doesn’t matter if we have a full line-up or not.”
Pepper’s second of the night, at 9:35 of the third, stood up as the winner. Thomas McLatchie (his 10th) added an insurance goal with 1:09 left on the clock.
Overall, Komoka out-shot St. Marys 35-30, but Lincolns held an 11-4 edge in the final 20 minutes. Goalie Kyle Curtin improved his personal record to 11-5-1-1 with Saturday’s win.
In addition to his goal, Coome collected three assists for a four-point night. Justin McIntyre contributed a pair of assists.
The eighth-place Kings slipped to 7-13-1-2 with the loss.
Lincolns 3 – Vipers 2 (OT)
At the PRC Friday night, Cayse Ton’s powerplay goal at 4:01 mark of a five-minute, 4-on-4 overtime period lifted Lincolns to a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over LaSalle in front of about 400 spectators. Riley Coome and Mason Mantzavrakos assisted on Ton’s eighth of the campaign.
It was a gutsy effort by the Lincs, who couldn’t get a puck past former OHL goalie Matthew Sbrocca for two periods and trailed 2-0 going into the third. The win halted a three-game losing skid for the Lincolns, while the loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Vipers. The extra point also moved St. Marys, temporarily, two points ahead of LaSalle in the battle for third place.
A Lincs’ turnover allowed Vipers to take a 1-0 lead at 6:01 of the first period on a goal by Abdul Abouzeeni.
Midway through the second period, Lincolns did a good job of killing off back-to-back 5-on-3 LaSalle powerplays. However, shortly after, the visitors went up 2-0 on a goal by Kyle Walker.
Lincs came out in the third and pushed the pace and it paid off with goals by Mantzavrakos (powerplay) and Joe Mazur before the period was seven minutes old. On Mazur’s tying goal, the big centre showed strong perseverance and seemed to surprise Sbrocca as he tucked the puck in from behind the net.
“It was just hard work and that’s what Joey gives us all the time,” coach McClement said. “We have a lot of players like that, and he finally got rewarded for his hard work.”
Banks in game winner
The game winner was a similar play. With St. Marys holding the man advantage, Ton banked in a shot off the Vipers’ netminder with just 59 seconds remaining in the first OT period.
“After the second period, I just told the boys to keep throwing pucks on net, and go banging and crashing to the net,” McClement said. “They can’t keep holding us down, and eventually they’re going to go in. Tonner is another player who works hard, and in overtime, he kind of bounced it in off the goaltender.
“Tonight was a total team effort,” the coach added. “It wasn’t just one guy; our whole team was going. We were battling and picking each other up. Nobody quit. In a game like that, you’re proud of your team for sticking together. It was like a playoff game.”
Mantzavrakos finished the night with three points. Overall, Lincolns out-shot LaSalle 41-30, including 2-0 in OT. Curtin earned the net win.
“I thought St. Marys deserved to win tonight,” Vipers’ coach John Nelson said without hesitation. “Our goaltender kept us in the game in the second period. In the third period and overtime, I thought St. Marys out-played us and out-worked us. When St. Marys got their opportunities, they took advantage of them.
“As I just told our guys, Ws are for wins and Ls are for lessons.”
Lincs now have a 2-1 record against LaSalle. All three games to date have been decided by a goal.
Upcoming: Lincolns played the first-place Nationals (22-3-0-1) on Wednesday (Nov. 27) of this week in London. This Friday, Lincs have another huge game when the second-place Leamington Flyers (19-5-0-1) come to town for a 7:30 p.m. face-off. Following weekend action, Flyers had a five-point lead on the Lincolns.
With the Snipers ringette tournament taking place Dec. 6-8 at the PRC, Lincs won’t have a home game on Friday, Dec. 6.