By Pat Payton
STRATHROY – The times are getting desperate for St. Marys Lincolns.
If Lincs hope to take part in the Western Conference playoffs, the time is now to start winning games. With only 10 regular-season contests remaining, Lincolns (9-25-3-1) sit eight points out of the final playoff position following weekend action.
Here Saturday night, Lincs failed to gain any ground on the eighth-place St. Thomas Stars when they dropped a 3-0 decision to the home-town Rockets. It was St. Marys’ fourth straight loss.
“We’re not out of it, but we soon have to get points,” Lincolns’ coach Trent McClement agreed. “With 10 games left, there’s a possibility of 20 points on the table. At the end of the day, you’re not out of it until you’re out of it.
“I’ve seen crazier things happen in hockey. If you win one game, you might go on a big roll. It can happen. At the end of the day, we are building for the future, but these are the moments that are the toughest to get through.”
Strathroy and St. Thomas played Sunday night in Strathroy. Stars made the Lincs’ climb even steeper when they defeated the Rockets 7-4. For the Stars (12-20-3-3), it was their first regulation-time win since mid-November.
Rockets 3 – Lincolns 0
At the West Middlesex Memorial Arena Saturday, there was no scoring for the first 34 minutes.
Michael Wood scored a shorthanded goal at 14:20 of the middle frame, and teammates Cody Clerc and Brenda Mairs added two more tallies before the end of the period to open up a 3-0 lead for the Rockets.
Lincolns out-shot Strathroy 11-9 in the third, but could not get a puck behind Josh Diamond. He shared the shutout with Vince Michelizzi, who left the game midway through the second period with an injury.
“It was an even game,” coach McClement reported. “Strathroy had their chances in the second period and buried them, and we didn’t score on our chances. It seem to be the difference in all these games lately.”
Overall, Lincs out-shot the Rockets 33-30. Kyle Curtin went the distance for St. Marys.
It’s the second time this season that Lincolns have lost 3-0 in Strathroy. Rockets (16-19-1-0) are tough at home. They are 12-5-1-0 at the West Middlesex rink, and 4-14-0-0 on the road.
Kings 8 – Lincolns 4
At the PRC Friday night, Komoka Kings doubled the Lincolns 8-4 for their fifth win in six games against St. Marys this season.
Lincs fought back from an early 3-1 deficit to tie the score 3-3 in the opening minute of the third period. However, Kings scored five of the next six goals as Lincolns continually got burned for turning the puck over in their own end of the ice.
“We didn’t take care of our zone in the third period,” a clearly frustrated Trent McClement said. “It’s something that we’ve had troubles with all year. Those bad turnovers are killing us . . . we’re leaving guys open in front of the net for wide-open shots.”
Trailing 3-1 after the opening 20 minutes, Lincs spent most of the second period killing penalties. All six penalties in the period were whistled against St. Marys, and the Lincolns’ fans and coaches expressed their displeasure with the officials as they left the ice for the intermission break.
Twenty-four seconds into the third, Mason Goldie’s shorthanded goal tied the score 3-3, giving Lincs new life. But it was short-lived as Komoka regained the lead for good just over two minutes later, and then scored what proved to be the winner at 6:31.
Goldie’s second of the night (his 11th) closed the gap to 5-4 at 8:11, but Kings took advantage of shoddy Lincolns’ defensive play and tacked on three more goals in the final five minutes. The visitors’ final goal was into an empty St. Marys net with 22 seconds remaining.
Joel Mazzilli and Cameron Welch each had two goals for Komoka, while the singles went to Joe Capirchio, Jacob Rochford, Dillon Ward and Ryan McAllister. Carson McMillan and Justin McIntyre scored the other Lincs’ goals.
“You’re always concerned when the other team comes back and ties it,” Kings’ coach Ron Horvat said. “It’s all about momentum. But after St. Marys tied it 3-3, we got back to our forecheck and getting pucks in deep. A push-back from us was needed.”
Overall, Lincolns out-shot the Kings 31-17, with Justin Richer taking the net loss. Lincs took 18 of the 26 penalty minutes, and had two key players–veterans Cayse Ton and Blair Butchart–tossed from the game with checking-from-behind penalties.
Komoka (16-18-1-1), which sits in sixth place, moved 12 points ahead of St. Marys with the win.
–This week, Lincolns travel to Sarnia Thursday to meet the fourth-place Legionnaires at 7:10 p.m. On Friday night, LaSalle Vipers come to town on ‘School Night’ at the PRC. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
Next Wednesday, Jan. 30, Lincs make the long trip to LaSalle for a 7 o’clock face-off.
–Six of Lincolns’ final 10 regular-season games are on home ice. In February, Lincs complete their schedule with seven games and five are at the PRC.