By Spencer Seymour
The St. Marys Lincolns won their third consecutive game and seventh of their last eight last Friday night when 1,115 people watched the Lincs beat the Sarnia Legionnaires 7-6 in a shootout.
Head Coach Jeff Bradley felt that the Lincs dominated most of the game despite the final score.
“It was a weird game,” Bradley admitted, adding that he felt happier with the team’s performance on Friday than some other games that the Lincolns have won this year that, on paper, weren’t as high-event. “I really did think we controlled the play for almost every bit of those 67 minutes and a lot of things went well for us.”
“At this time of the year, you want to be able to find ways to win,” Bradley added. “We don’t want to have to score our way out of trouble on a regular basis but it’s good that we know we can do it if we need to.”
Bradley also told the Independent that he’s feeling “very positive” overall about the team heading into the final five games of the regular season, noting that the group just needs to “iron out” a few details of their defensive game.
“We find where we get into some trouble is puck-watching in our own zone. Whether that be when the other team has possession in our zone or they have possession and we’re not identifying on the back-check, those are a couple of things that I find we do sometimes get into a bit of trouble.”
“We don’t give up much off the rush,” Bradley continued. “Our penalty kill is outstanding. A lot of areas where teams tend to score goals, we’re not giving up much.”
Only two teams, Leamington and LaSalle, have allowed fewer goals this season than the Lincolns.
After having just one goal in nine games, Michael Elliston exploded last Friday, potting a hat-trick. Bradley credited Elliston for grinding his way back into the goal column.
“Mike had been struggling a little bit to score lately, you could tell he worked really hard. He didn’t think he was going to score if he just got more shots or being fancy, he worked extremely hard and got rewarded with three goals.”
Elliston’s first goal of the night came in the first period and, along with Adam Barkley’s first of two goals and four points, sent the Lincs into the dressing room up 2-1 after 20 minutes. In the second, the Legionnaires came out with a spark and scored twice in the first three minutes and 43 seconds to take a one-goal lead.
It took around nine-and-a-half minutes for St. Marys to answer but once they did, their offence came in waves. Austin Keleher’s eighth of the season kicked off a stretch of three goals in one minute and 41 seconds for the Lincolns, with Barkley and Elliston each scoring their second of the contest to take a 5-3 lead.
However, before the end of the second, the frenetic pace continued as the Legionnaires scored two goals just one minute and 27 seconds apart to tie the game at five apiece heading into the third.
Elliston completed the hat-trick less than two minutes into the third but just under nine minutes later, Jerome Emmett Pegrum tied the game for the Legionnaires. The game needed overtime and, when no one scored, a shootout. With a chance to win it in the fifth round of the shootout, Jacob Chantler fired home the game-winner.
Bradley praised the hard-working 20-year-old who buried the shootout winner for “putting the team on his back again” throughout the game. The bench boss also was happy with the way the entire defence played, including Grayden Strohack, who Bradley believes has blossomed into an “elite” GOJHL defender.
“I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly how he’s developed this year, Grayden is just an awesome player,” said Bradley. “He and Barkley to me are an elite pairing in this league. Grayden is confident, he moves the puck like a pro, and he’s got an OHL-calibre shot. He’s physical, he defends well, and he’s a great kid. He’s an elite defenceman and he’s extremely driven to be better.”
Carter George made 35 saves on 41 Sarnia shots. The Thunder Bay-native also stopped all five shootout attempts by the Legionnaires. On Saturday night, George was called up by the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack and started their game against the Flint Firebirds, making 23 saves in a 4-2 Attack loss.
The Lincolns finish their regular season with five games in nine days, including tonight in Leamington, Saturday at home to St. Thomas, Monday afternoon hosting Sarnia, and next Wednesday in LaSalle.