By Pat Payton
To St. Marys Lincolns’ credit, win or lose, they’re going to fight to the bitter end.
Lincs clawed their way back into the playoff picture by gaining three of a possible four points in two overtime battles on back-to-back nights last week.
On Friday night at the PRC, Lincolns fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits to earn an exciting 4-3 OT victory over LaSalle Vipers. Approximately 500 spectators watched the game on ‘School Night.’
“We talked before the game, and said we have nine more games and we’re either going to make the playoff or we’re not,” St. Marys coach Trent McClement said afterwards. “But every night that we show up and lace up our skates, we’re going to be the hardest-working team.
“That’s something we can control. We can’t control refs or sometimes bounces, but effort and how hard we work are things we can control. Tonight, I thought we were the harder-working team.”
Friday’s win moved Lincs (10-25-3-2) to within five points of St. Thomas Stars (12-22-3-3), who currently own the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Stars almost gained another point last Friday, but Leamington Flyers scored with 10 seconds left in regulation time to win 4-3 in St. Thomas. Stars also lost 3-2 in Komoka Saturday.
Season on the line Friday?
After a rematch with the Vipers on Wednesday of this week in LaSalle, Lincolns host St. Thomas in their biggest game of the season to date this Friday at 7:30 p.m. A win will keep Lincs’ playoff hopes alive; a loss could end any chance of competing in the post-season.
“I know we’re chasing St. Thomas and it’s a huge game, but every game down the stretch is huge,” McClement noted. “If we show how hard we work and show a gutsy effort every night, it’s going to lead into next year, too. All we can control is our games and our effort. Anything else, we can’t control.
“If we lose Friday against St. Thomas, our (playoff) chances are probably slim. They go up another two points and it’s a four-point game. For us, every game down the stretch is like a Game 7. We’re trying to show these kids that every time they walk into this room, it’s all business.”
Lincs have a 2-1-2 record against the Stars to date this season.
Lincolns 4 – Vipers 3 (OT)
At the PRC Friday night, Carson McMillan emerged the hero for Lincolns when he scored a picture goal at 2:53 of 4-on-4 overtime. After taking a pass from Tanner Hertel, McMillan burst past the LaSalle defence and beat goalie Jackson Bernard through the legs. Joe Mazur also assisted.
“I just made a move and he bit,” McMillan explained. “I wheeled around him and the goalie dropped down. I saw a space in his ‘five-hole’ and just buried it.
“It’s my biggest goal of the season for sure. Overtime winner at home . . . it feels great.”
Goals by Jack Bowler (powerplay) and Spencer Paradis staked Vipers to a 2-0 first-period lead.
Mason Goldie got Lincs back in the game with a powerplay goal at 5:45 of the middle frame. Aaron Shaw restored a two-goal advantage for LaSalle at 10:12, and it appeared the visitors were back in control. However, Lincolns stunned the Vipers with two goals–just 11 seconds apart late in the period–tying the contest 3-3. The marksmen were Justin McIntyre (his ninth) and Goldie (his 13th). Newcomer Thomas McLatchie assisted on both goals, giving him three helpers for the night.
Both teams had a couple of good chances in the third, before McMillan (his ninth) decided it in extra time.
“I thought it was a gutsy win tonight, definitely a deserved win for sure,” coach McClement said.
“As you seen tonight, when we come together, we’re a good team. Our backs are against the wall, and every point we can get is big for us.”
LaSalle held a slim 29-28 edge in shots, including 3-2 in overtime. Kyle Curtin got the net win for St. Marys, making 26 saves. The victory gave Lincs a 3-2 record against the fifth-place Vipers (18-16-2-3).
Legionnaires 2 – Lincolns 1 (OT)
At the Sarnia Arena last Thursday night, Aaron Jamieson scored just 37 seconds into 4-on-4 overtime to lift the home-town Legionnaires to a 2-1 win over the Lincolns.
Lincs got one point for the OT loss. Both teams had one shot in the short-lived extra frame.
After Ben Schoch gave Sarnia a 1-0 lead at 11:04 of the first period, Carson McMillan tied it at 6:01 of the middle frame from Carter Schoonderwoerd and Joe Mazur. Lincolns had two powerplay chances in the third period, but couldn’t capitalize.
After more than 34 minutes of scoreless hockey, Jamieson scored to give the fourth-place Legionnaires (18-12-2-5) the win in the first minute of extra time.
Overall, Sarnia out-shot St. Marys 43-28, including 21-7 in the second period. Kyle Curtin went the distance for the visitors, making 41 saves.
Lincs are now 0-3-1 against the Legionnaires to date this season. The teams play twice in February and both games are at the PRC.
Due to injuries and a suspension, Lincolns dressed three affiliate skaters: forward Lakin Hendry, and defencemen Peter Cascagnette and Jack Robinson.
–Following action this past weekend, Lincolns have just eight regular-season games remaining–including five at home. Next Wednesday, Feb. 6, Lincs are in London to play the first-place Nationals at 7 p.m.
–Lincolns held their ‘School Night’ promotion last Friday, with students from five local and area public schools invited. Libby McCurdy and Marlowe Graham, Grade 5 students at Little Falls school, sang the national anthem.
Shooteroo participants were Pierce MacNeil, Donovan McGregor and Luke Richardson.