By Pat Payton
St. Marys Lincolns have to get back to the drawing board as they head towards the Western Conference playoffs, says coach Trent McClement.
McClement made the comment after Lincs lost a two-goal lead for the second consecutive night, and dropped a 5-4 decision to Chatham Maroons last Friday at the PRC. Approximately 650 fans watched the game on ‘School Night.”
Lincolns also lost 5-4 (in overtime) the previous night to the Legionnaires in Sarnia, leaving St. Marys (22-10-3-4) seven points up on the fourth-place LaSalle Vipers (19-13-1-5). Vipers now have a game in hand. The teams meet twice in the next week, with both games in LaSalle.
“In the last couple of games we’ve had two-goal leads and let those teams back in the game,” McClement said. “Before Christmas, we weren’t doing that and we just have to get back to the basics and back to the little things in practice. It all starts in practice and we have to fix these things.
“We‘re a good hockey team and that’s why we’re in these games. But we can’t be giving up two-goal leads, especially against teams we could be facing in the playoffs. We don’t want to send a message where they have a chance to compete with us and beat us. Going forward, we have to regroup. We have 11 games left before playoffs, and we just have to get back to playing playoff-style hockey.”
Maroons 5 – Lincolns 4
At the PRC Friday night, it was a possible playoff preview with the third-place Lincolns meeting the Maroons, who sat in sixth place coming into the game.
After Chatham took an early 1-0 lead on a goal by Kyle Fisher, goals by Ryan Brown and defenceman Nathan Small, on a powerplay, gave Lincs a 2-1 lead by the end of 20 minutes.
A goal by newcomer Brock Trichilo, early in the middle frame, made it 3-1 and it appeared that St. Marys was in control at that point. Trichilo’s third goal in two games was neatly set up by Ryan Burke.
However, the Maroons had other ideas. Consecutive goals by Zach Power, AJ Ryan and Lucas Fancy (powerplay) gave the visitors a 4-3 advantage by the end of 40 minutes.
Lincolns came out pressing early in the third and tied the score 4-4 on a goal by Jacob Bloomfield (his eighth) at the 1:39 mark. For the rest of the period, the two teams pushed for the go-ahead goal and it was Maroons who got it. Power’s second of the night, with just under five minutes to play, would stand up as the winner.
The game ended on a controversial note for the Lincs, who argued that they had tied the score with a goal in the final second of play. Chatham took a penalty with 23 seconds remaining, and Lincolns also pulled goalie Cy Martin for a 6-on-4 man advantage. A shot by defenceman Riley Coome clearly entered the Chatham net, but both referees ruled that time had expired.
Overall, Lincs out-shot the Maroons 30-18. Brown finished the game with three points for St. Marys.
With the win, Chatham (16-15-1-7) moved ahead of Strathroy Rockets (17-20-2-2) and into fifth place.
Legionnaires 5 – Lincolns 4 (OT)
At the Sarnia Arena Thursday night, Lincolns were less than a minute from bringing home two points when Legionnaires tied the score on a shorthanded goal by Nolan DeGurse. Sarnia’s leading scorer then won the game for the home team with his third goal of the night late in the first overtime period.
Jon Sanderson and Josh Barraclough also scored for the eighth-place Legionnaires. Brock Trichilo, with two powerplay goals, Jake Robinson and Kyle Kuznik (his seventh) replied for the Lincs. Riley Coome contributed three assists.
The goals by Trichilo and Robinson were their first for the Lincolns since coming to St. Marys in a four-player deal, just prior to the Jan. 10 trading deadline.
Lincs trailed 2-1 after the first period, but tied it late in the middle frame on a man-advantage goal by Trichilo. Goals by Trichilo and Robinson–before the final period was four minutes old–put St. Marys ahead 4-2.
After a powerplay marker by Barraclough midway through the period pulled Sarnia to within a goal, DeGurse forced overtime with his shorthanded tally with just 42 seconds left in regulation. DeGurse’s winner came at 3:54 of extra time. It was the centreman’s fourth point of the night.
Overall, Lincolns out-shot the Legionnaires 51-43, including 5-4 in OT. Kyle Curtin made 38 saves in going the distance for the visitors.
Sarnia took 45 of the 81 penalty minutes.
In three games in Sarnia this season, Lincs came out with just three points on a win and an OT loss.
“I think we’re getting comfortable, we’re in third place, and some people are getting comfortable with that,” coach McClement said. “But we have to start playing a certain way or we’re going to go into the playoffs like Chatham did last year. They finished third and had a quick exit.
“We have to get back to playing Lincoln hockey. It’s not pretty to watch, it’s just getting pucks deep and finishing our checks. We don’t take chances and pinch, and we don’t give up too many opportunities.”
Upcoming: Lincolns are back in action on Wednesday (Jan. 29) of this week with a big game against the Vipers in LaSalle at 7 p.m. On the weekend, Lincs have back-to-back home games, hosting Sarnia on Friday and St. Thomas Stars on Saturday. Both are 7:30 p.m. face-offs.
Next Tuesday, Feb. 4, Lincolns play a re-scheduled game in Strathroy at 7:30 p.m. It was snowed out Jan. 18.