By Pat Payton
St. Marys Lincolns’ regular schedule in the New Year consists of 17 games, including 11 on home ice. Lincs open their January schedule with four straight home games, starting this Friday, Jan. 3 against Chatham Maroons at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s in our control if we want second place,” coach Trent McClement said as the Lincolns went into the Christmas break.
In the New Year, Lincs play Sarnia Legionnaires three times at the PRC and Chatham twice. London Nationals, Leamington Flyers, Komoka Kings, St. Thomas Stars, LaSalle Vipers and Strathroy Rockets each have one more game in St. Marys.
Of their six away games, Lincolns play the Vipers in LaSalle twice. They also travel to Strathroy, Sarnia, Leamington and Chatham one more time before playoffs start in late February.
The third-place Lincs go into the New Year with a 20-7-3-3 record, good for 46 points. They are seven points behind second-place Leamington (25-7-1-2) and seven ahead of fourth-place LaSalle (17-11-1-4).
–Just before the Christmas break, Lincolns traded Braeden Burdett to Mitchell Jr. ‘C’ Hawks, the team he played for last season. With the Lincs, the 18-year-old Stratford native had three goals, seven points and 22 penalty minutes in 15 games.
Burdett requested the trade. “Braeden called me and we had a long talk about what he’s trying to do with work, his commitment to being a tradesmen,” GM Greg Smale said. “He felt it was more beneficial to him to go back to a Jr. ‘C’ schedule. But he said he’d love to affiliate with us, and still be part of the team and what we’ve built here.”
With the OHA Jan. 10 trading deadline quickly approaching, St. Marys currently sits with 22 players.
–Lincolns’ coaches Trent McClement, Tyler Duarte and Cole Stewart guided Team McClement in the GOJHL’s Future Stars’ game (for 16-year-olds) Dec. 28 in Waterloo. Team McClement battled back from early 4-1 and 5-2 deficits to gain a 9-9 tie with Team Collins, which scored the tying goal with just 10 seconds left to play. Team Collins then scored at 2:13 of overtime to pull out a 10-9 win.
Representing the Lincs on the ice were forward Ryan Burke and defenceman Brayden Hislop, who both clicked for a goal and an assist for Team McClement.
In the Top Prospects game (for 17 and 18 year-olds), forward Mason Mantzavrakos, defenceman Nathan Small and goalie Kyle Curtin represented the Lincolns on Team Bush, which rallied for a 5-4 double-overtime victory over Team Bignell.
Mantzavrakos’s second-period goal ignited a comeback for Team Bush, which trailed 3-0 at the time. Curtin earned the net win, kicking out 14 of 15 shots in 26.34 minutes of action.
Sarnia centre Nolan DeGurse forced overtime when he scored with 19 seconds left in regulation time. DeGurse also fired the winner at 2:11 of the second OT period.
–Coach McClement likes the Lincs’ depth, especially after adding forwards Ryan Brown (St. Thomas), Griffin Sinden (London) and Kyle Kuznik (Stratford) in separate cash deals recently.
“Our depth is huge,” he told the Independent. “Our depth is something that’s going to make us hard to play against come playoff time. On a night when one guy isn’t going, somebody else steps up.”
–Lincolns reached a goals milestone on Friday, Dec. 20. Thomas McLatchie’s early first-period goal against London was the 12,500th goal of the team’s long and storied history.
–During a recent stop in St. Marys, coach Pat Powers were asked to compare his Nationals’ team to the last four London teams that won the Western Conference playoff title.
“There are a lot of similarities, but there are a lot of differences as well,” Powers replied. “One of the things we have this year is our depth of scoring. We’ve had a deep forward group the last few years, but I don’t think our scoring went four lines deep.
“This year, I truly believe our scoring is four lines deep, and that’s shown in some of the results this year. It’s nice to know that if one guy isn’t on, we have 11 other guys who can score, too.”
–Nationals currently have the best road record (14-2-1) in the entire GOJHL. Powers was asked why the Nats have been so dominant on the road.
“Our returning players from last year seem to be very comfortable in opposing teams’ rinks,” the coach said. “We have also brought in some players from other leagues who have been significant pieces to those teams. Obviously they’ve been in programs where they had good success on the road, too.
“I just think it comes down to the maturity of the group that we have, and their ability to compete night in and night out. I’m really happy with our team right now.”
–The well-travelled Austin Maietta is back in the Western Conference. The former Lincs’ centre was recently traded by Cambridge Redhawks to Komoka Kings. The 20-year-old Markham native spent parts of two seasons in St. Marys.
–Paul Vanderspank Banner Night. The St. Marys Jr. ‘B’ team will honour former Lincolns’ great Paul Vanderspank (1972-77) on Friday, Jan. 10. The Belmont area native played five seasons with the Lincs, and was their captain when they won the All-Ontario championship in Collingwood in the spring of 1976.
Vanderspank will receive a team jacket, be given a life-long membership to the Lincolns’ Alumni group, and drop the ceremonial first puck prior to the St. Marys-London game.
A banner, with his name on it, will also hang on the Lincs’ Wall of Fame in the Rock arena.