By Pat Payton
St. Marys Lincolns brought in speedy forward Brock Trichilo at the Jan. 10 trade deadline to score goals. And the 20-year-old has done just that!
Trichilo fired a hat trick last Friday night at the PRC, sparking Lincs to a wild 8-3 victory over Strathroy Rockets in front of about 700 spectators. The win gave Lincolns the best-of-seven Western Conference quarter-final playoff series in five games.
“Getting the three tonight feels great,” Trichilo told the Independent. “Me and my linemates have clicked right away since I’ve come to St. Marys. I played with Ryan Brown in St. Thomas and Burkey (Ryan Burke) is a very good passer.
“I love it here; winning has obviously been great. The boys welcomed me in right away . . . I feel like I’m at home.”
Since joining the Lincs, Trichilo has averaged over a point a game. The Schreiber native had 10 goals and 16 points in 14 regular-season games, and had five goals and seven points in the five-game Strathroy series.
Lincolns will now meet Leamington Flyers in the conference semi-finals, beginning Thursday in Leamington at 7:10 p.m. Game 2 is Friday at the PRC at 7:30 p.m.
Lincolns 8 – Rockets 3
At the PRC last Friday, a blazing start by the Lincolns proved to be the difference in the game. Lincs scored four times before the contest was seven minutes old and the shell-shocked Rockets never really recovered.
“We had to come out flying tonight, set the pace right off the start, and we took the early lead,” Trichilo said.
Trichilo scored 15 seconds into the game, and goals by Mason Mantzavrakos, Ryan Burke (powerplay) and Trichilo again gave St. Marys a commanding 4-0 lead by the 6:33 mark of the first period. After a pair of powerplay goals by Rockets’ Brendan Mairs closed the gap to 4-2, Joe Mazur gave the Lincolns a little breathing room again with a goal late in the opening frame.
Strathroy replaced starter Josh Diamond with Zion Miceli to start the second period. Rockets’ captain Daniel Aspro made it 5-3 just 14 seconds into the period, but that’s as close as the visitors would get. Jake Robinson (who came with Trichilo from St. Thomas at the trade deadline) restored a three-goal lead for Lincs late in the period.
After Ryan Brown made it 7-3 early in the third, Trichilo completed his hat trick on a powerplay with 8:10 remaining. Trichilo, who also had an assist for a four-point night, was named player-of-the-game for his team.
The veteran Robinson added a pair of assists to go along with his timely goal.
Overall, St. Marys out-shot Strathroy 44-29.
“We wanted to get off to a good start tonight,” Lincolns’ coach Trent McClement said. “I kind of mixed and matched my lines to start the game. For the most part, we didn’t take our foot off the pedal.
“There was a little concern when Strathroy made it 4-2 and then 5-3, but I thought if we stayed five-on-five we’d be fine. I had a lot of confidence in our team tonight. Every time Strathroy pushed a little bit, we pushed back. It was definitely a character victory. We came out of the series with no injuries or suspensions, so it was a win-win for sure.”
Rockets’ coach Jason Furlong was proud of his team for putting up a good fight.
“Our guys battled,” Furlong said. “They can hold their heads up high; they never quit.
St. Marys came out hard tonight; they played well. Our guys kept battling, but it’s tough when you have to play from behind all night. Tonight was a pivotal game, and kudos to St. Marys for coming out and playing hard.”
Rockets 2 – Lincolns 0
In Game 4 last Wednesday in Strathroy, the desperate Rockets stayed alive with a 2-0 victory in front of about 400 fans. The loss halted a seven-game Lincolns’ winning streak, dating back to Feb. 14 of the regular schedule.
After over 42 minutes of scoreless hockey, Brandon Sanders scored what proved to be the winner at 2:34 of the third period. Veteran defenceman Aidan Burns added an insurance goal with 4:23 left on the clock.
Josh Diamond made 25 saves for the shutout as Lincs had a 25-24 edge in shots. Kyle Curtin went the distance for the visitors. “Diamond had a pretty good game, but we didn’t have our best game,” coach McClement said.
Rockets took 24 of the 34 penalty minutes, but Lincolns went 0-for-6 on the powerplay.
“We had a lot of powerplays,” McClement said. “They gave us all the chances in the world to win the hockey game, but we didn’t capitalize on anything tonight. Our powerplay won us Game 3, but it didn’t help us tonight.
“All the 20-year-olds on Strathroy were playing for their Junior lives. We now have to have that same urgency (Friday night) in order to put them away.”
Lincolns 4 – Rockets 3
At the PRC last Tuesday night, Ryan Brown’s powerplay goal with just under three minutes to play snapped a 3-3 tie and gave Lincolns a 4-3 win and 3-0 stranglehold on the series.
Earlier in the game, Lincs let three one-goal leads slip away.
The teams traded first-period goals. Lincolns’ Ryan Burke opened the scoring on a powerplay before Rockets’ Toby Rizzo deflected home a shot from the point late in the frame. It was the first goal on Curtin in over 135 minutes in the series.
After Brock Trichilo put St. Marys back in front at 1:08 of the second period, the teams combined for three goals in a span of 1:41 midway through the frame. Brandon Sanders tied it at 9:03, but captain Cayse Ton put Lincs back in front just 42 seconds later. Both were powerplay goals.
Brendan Mairs took advantage of a Lincolns’ turnover and scored at 10:44, leaving the teams deadlocked 3-3 after 40 minutes.
Neither side had many quality scoring chances in a tight-checking third period. Finally, with 3:27 to play, a slashing penalty proved costly to the Rockets. Just 30 seconds later, Brown tipped home Riley Coome’s point blast for the game winner.
Overall, Lincs out-shot the visitors 35-27.
“This was Strathroy’s Game 7; if they don’t win it they’re in a huge hole,” coach McClement said. “I thought we played a good third period. But at times tonight, we had careless give-aways. If you want to go far in these playoffs, those kinds of things can’t happen.
“But we’re learning; we don’t have a lot of playoff experience. I thought we took stretches of this game off. But we got three powerplay goals tonight, so that was a big factor in the win. I was just glad we stepped up to the plate when we needed to.
“Looking ahead, you don’t want to give the other team any hope. You don’t want to play games that you don’t have to, especially when you’re gearing up for a long playoff run. But the hardest win in any series is the fourth one.”
After being shut out the first two games, scoring three times against the Lincolns was something the Rockets were taking as a positive.
“We can build off that going forward,” Strathroy assistant coach Brady Vandenberk said. “Curtin’s been a good goalie for them, and getting traffic to the net is very important for us. Scoring those dirty goals is going to be big.
“There’s a sour taste in the boys’ mouths tonight, but from the look on everyone’s face we can’t wait for tomorrow.”