Balanced scoring, big mobile defence and team depth should make Lincs strong opponent
By Pat Payton
The 2021-22 edition of the St. Marys Lincolns will be a veteran squad, and it will also be a team with some impressive rookie talent.
“I think we’re going to be one of those hard-working teams and we’re going to be good in all areas of the ice,” head coach Trent McClement said in a recent interview with the Independent newspaper.
“We’re going to be an older team; we have more 20-year-olds (seven) this year and some 19-year-olds, too. We feel age and experience definitely helps. You look at the London Nationals and Chatham Maroons teams of the past, those veteran players helped propel them to the top. When you’re older and stronger and have experience, you’re harder to play against. It’s a good component to have on your hockey club.”
Balanced scoring attack
McClement, returning for his fourth year behind the bench, sees a balanced scoring attack this season and a team that’s solid defensively.
“Offensively, and I could be wrong, but I don’t think we’re going to have a 50-goal scorer on our club this year,” he said. “But we have a lot of good pieces, where we’re going to have a lot of 20 to 25 goal scorers.
“And I think we’re really good defensively, pretty solid on the back end. In all aspects of the game, offensively and defensively, we’re going to be really strong. We may not excel in any one area, but we’re going to be good in all areas. We’re going to be a well-rounded team.”
Players who should provide the scoring punch include: captain Jacob Bloomfield, Ethan Lamoureux, Cole Schnittker, Joe Mazur, Kevin Perrott, and skilled rookies Kyle Morey and Noah Vandenbrink.
Morey and Vandenbrink, both 16, were high picks (fifth round) in the Ontario Hockey League draft earlier this year. Morey came up through the Kitchener Jr. Rangers’ system, and the Kitchener native was taken by the Owen Sound Attack. Vandenbrink, who hails from Belmont, was selected by the Hamilton Bulldogs.
“They think the game at a high level,” McClement said of Morey and Vandenbrink. “In Major Bantam, they were among the top scorers in the Alliance League. We’re going to put them in the right situations to hopefully put up some points here. Next year, if everything goes well, I think you’ll see both kids taking that jump to the OHL.
“In the last three years, we’ve had a good crop of 16-year-olds coming through here. It shows what our program is, and why these OHL teams want to see their prospects here. We have a lot of good veteran players, but we also have a lot of good younger players as well.”
The return of the 20-year-old Mazur, meanwhile, gives Lincolns a big centreman who works hard, wins face-offs, and is also a strong penalty-killer.
Big, mobile defence
Anchoring a big, mobile defence are veterans Eric Lalonde, physical Max Mulder, Jordan Daer and Thomas Munro. Lalonde, who could be one of the best blue-liners in the league, and Munro should add a little offence as well. Lalonde and Munro both played Tier II Jr. ‘A’ in Collingwood.
Lincolns will also be solid in net. As of last weekend, the team still had three goaltenders in the picture — Sean Andrus, 20, Bryce Walcarius, 19, and rookie Ryan Wheeler, 18.
Andrus was at Lincs’ training camp two years ago and then played the 2019-20 season with the Kincardine Jr. ‘C’ Bulldogs. The 6 ft., 3 inch Walcarius, from Aylmer, previously played with London and Chatham in the GOJHL. Wheeler was a member of the Huron-Perth Lakers ‘AAA’ Major Midgets in 2019-20, posting a 2.44 goals-against average.
Good depth in all areas
Coach McClement likes the depth of this year’s team, and praised the entire staff for the hard work they put in scouting and recruiting the 2021-22 roster.
“I think we’ll be a really deep team, and to win in this league you have to be deep,” he said. “We have a lot of depth up front. On any given night, any of our lines could be the No. 1 line in that particular game.
“And on the back end, one through six are solid. I think we’re going to be hard to score against, which is going to help our goaltending, too.”
Director of Hockey Operations/GM Greg Smale agreed that team depth is a “huge positive” going into the season.
“I’m pretty excited about our depth and our compete level,” Smale said. “I think we have a lot of work to do on our systems and team structure and bonding as a team. We did skate last year with the majority of the group, but it was a Covid year and we weren’t able to do what we would normally do as far as team building.
“I’m excited about this group, and the players we have, and I think we’re going to be an exciting team to watch.”
All about the process
Smale doesn’t feel there’s “pressure” for Lincs to win this season, following their most successful year in the last decade. In 2019-20, Lincolns won 30 games, finished third overall, and then knocked off the Strathroy Rockets in five games in the first round of playoffs.
“What we’re going to try and do is improve every game and every practice, and get better, and hopefully the results show at the end,” he said.
“The way we looked at our exhibition schedule, it wasn’t about wins and losses,” he noted. “It’s been more about the process and building the hockey team and getting everyone familiar with each other. The results of the (pre-season) games have been irrelevant; it’s more about the process.
“As management, we’re always going to be looking to add and improve the team in any area. I don’t think we’re a finished product by any means. We’re always going to be looking to get better,” Smale added.
McClement wouldn’t go as far as saying Lincolns will be a contender in the Western Conference this season.
“It’s kind of hard to tell this early,” he said. “After a Covid season, you don’t know what other teams have until you play them all. Other years, I would know returning players on other teams.
“I believe we have a roster that could contend in this league, but until I see all teams in our division it’s hard to project.”
–Lincolns have five players remaining from the 2019-20 season. Those five veterans are: Bloomfield, Mazur, Lamoureux, Mulder and Daer.