By Pat Payton
KOMOKA – As the Western Conference standings show, St. Marys Lincolns are off to one of their best starts in many years. And one of the biggest reasons has been the play of No. 1 puckstopper Kyle Curtin, who has allowed only eight goals in his six starts to date.
Here Saturday night, the 17-year-old, second-year player from St. George kicked out 28 shots in a 5-0 victory over the home-town Kings. Following the game, the Peterborough Petes’ draft pick had the best goals-against average in the 26-team GOJHL (1.24), the best save percentage (.960), was second in wins (4), and third in total saves (192). With the shutout win, he also improved his personal record to 4-0-1-1.
On Sunday, the Independent learned that Curtin has been named the St. Marys Buick GMC Player-of-the-Month for September.
“For sure, Kyle’s one of the best goalies in the league,” Lincs’ coach Trent McClement said. “We just have to play a little better in front of Curty. If we play better in front of him, it’s going to be really hard for other teams to score on him.
“As a coach, we want to win that last game. We have a good hockey team this year. We just went a whole month without losing a game in regulation and that’s something to be proud of.”
After weekend action, Lincolns (6-0-1-1) sit in a second-place tie with London Nationals (7-1-0-0). Both teams are one point behind the front-running Leamington Flyers (7-1-0-1).
Lincolns 5 – Kings 0
In Komoka Saturday, Lincolns’ rookie Ethan Lamoureux fired what proved to be the winner in the opening minute of the contest. Lincolns then took control with four unanswered goals in the second period. Two of the goals came in the first four minutes of the frame.
“Offensively, we were really good,” McClement said. “When you throw pucks on net, good things tend to happen. Tonight, all those good things were happening for us.
“Defensively, we’re going to have to shore up a couple of things. For us, we have to take care of our own zone.”
Winger Braeden Burdett had two of the second-period goals for St. Marys, with Mason Mantzavrakos (his sixth on a powerplay) and Carter Schoonderwoerd adding the singles. Jacob Bloomfield, Joe Mazur and defenceman Brayden Hislop each contributed two assists.
Overall, shots were 41-28 in favour of the Lincs.
Komoka (2-4-1-0) is currently tied for last place with Sarnia Legionnaires (2-4-0-1). Both teams have five points.
Flyers 1 – Lincolns 0 (2OT)
At the PRC Friday night, over 600 spectators on ‘School Night’ watched an intense battle between the Lincolns and Flyers that lasted almost 70 minutes. Nicholas Beneteau’s breakaway goal at 4:04 of the second, five-minute overtime period lifted Leamington to a 1-0 victory.
Lincs got a point for the OT loss, their first defeat of the young season. However, St. Marys is still the only team in the conference that doesn’t have a regulation-time loss.
It was a fast-paced, tight-checking game where neither side wanted to give an inch. Both teams found it difficult to generate good quality scoring chances. Finally, with just 56 seconds remaining in the 3-on-3 OT period, Beneteau took advantage of a turnover by a Lincolns’ defenceman and fired the winner.
“At the start of the season, I’ll accept mistakes like that,” coach McClement said. “We’ll learn from them. Every game this season, we’ve got at least a point. I’m just being honest, but I thought in overtime Leamington did take it to us a little bit.”
McClement said Friday’s game showed that the Lincs once again demonstrated that they can play with the top teams in the conference.
“Tonight, I think we battled through everything that we need to battle through,” he said. “It was a good character game. It just shows the heart that our guys have this year, and how mad they were after the game. Last year, we would have been happy just getting the game into overtime.
“We’re showing how tough we are to play against–especially in our own zone. Last year, we gave up 20 goals in the first three games and this year I don’t think we’ve allowed 20 yet. We’re striving in the right direction. These are the teams we need to beat if we want to win this league. We just have to keep working and try and get better every day.”
Overall, shots were 33-26 in favour of the Flyers, who had a 6-4 advantage in overtime. The visitors had the better chances in the second OT period.
Both goalies–Lincolns’ Kyle Curtin and Flyers’ Ryan Polidori–played well. Neither side had any luck on the powerplay, combining for 0-for-10 with the man advantage.
With Friday’s win, first-place Leamington temporarily moved three points ahead of both St. Marys and London. The Flyers are a poised, good-skating, puck-moving team.
This week: Lincolns hit the road for a game against the Legionnaires in Sarnia this Thursday at 7:10 p.m. On Friday, Lincs host Strathroy Rockets when the team kicks off the Fall Food Drive with the Salvation Army. Game time is 7:30 p.m.