By Pat Payton
A strong St. Marys Lincolns team got even better early last week when GM Greg Smale acquired two talented defencemen, Nathan Small and Riley Coome.
The first deal involved Small, who was obtained from Western Conference rival London Nationals for the rights to defenceman Ryan Martin. Martin played for the Lincs (2015-16) as a 16-year-old and then spent the last three seasons with the OHL’s Erie Otters. After being released by Erie this fall, the 20-year-old Londoner opted to join the Nats, but Martin’s Jr. ‘B’ rights still belonged to St. Marys.
Small was the highest-scoring Major Midget defenceman last season. The 17-year-old from Dorchester collected 43 points (6-37) with the Elgin-Middlesex ‘AAA’ Chiefs.
“I think he improves our puck movement and our vision,” GM Smale said. “He will skate us out of trouble in our own zone. He’s got a great sense for offence and he sees the ice really well. It’s exciting to have him.”
To make room for Small, Lincs released defenceman Tyler Alexander. While a member of the London Jr. Knights Major Midgets last season, the 17-year-old Ilderton native played several games for the Lincolns as an affiliate skater. This year, Alexander had no points in seven games.
Coome played for Lincs in 2016-17
Coome agreed to come to St. Marys after being released by the Western Mustangs’ men’s varsity team. The 20-year-old from Dorchester played for the Lincolns in 2016-17, the last time they made the playoffs after a sixth-place finish. Coome then spent the last two seasons with the London Knights, playing a total of 122 games with the OHL team.
“We’ve come to an arrangement and he’s all in,” GM Smale told the Independent. He says the Lincs will carry 23 players for now.
“With Coome, you couldn’t have asked for a better person and player for our team right now,” Smale said. “With players like (Jordan) Daer and (Caleb) MacDonald and (Brayden) Hislop, who want to play in the OHL, we now have a guy who has been there. He can show them how to practice every day and how to play the game the right way. It will be extremely beneficial for developing those young players.”
Coome is 6 ft., 4 inches and 210 lbs. “He’s a big boy and a defensive-style player,” Smale says. “He put up good offensive numbers when he was here (in St. Marys). I think he’s an overall good defenceman. You couldn’t ask for a better guy to teach these young kids how to play.”
Both Small and Coome played their first two games with the Lincolns last week.
–The perennially-strong Leamington Flyers, last year’s league finalists, have eight players back from the 2018-19 season.
“We’ve had quite a turnover, but we like our group,” returning coach Cam Crowder said before last Friday’s game in St. Marys. “We have a good group of kids who work hard. We try and have the identity that we work hard every night, and we seem to be doing that so far. That’s big for us.
“We don’t set goals; we just try and get better every single day. I think we’re starting to learn and grow as a group. We’re a little bit older than last year. Some of our high-end young guys last season moved on to the OHL and Major Junior. We want to be a good team and I think we’re in the process of doing that.”
Crowder said a team strength is definitely speed. “We’re a pretty fast team and we try and use that speed to our advantage. We also have some guys who can play physical and wear the other team down.”
There are also seven Americans on the Flyers’ roster. “We try and use that to our advantage being so close to the border,” Crowder said. “Our GM does a really good job of scouting and getting those guys (to join Leamington).”
–“It’s nice to see St. Marys jump up in the standings, but you could see that starting to happen last year,” Crowder told the Independent. “I don’t know how many close games and one-goal games that St. Marys lost last year. It’s nice to see them competitive; they have a good team.”
–The Independent interviewed former Lincolns’ team captain Walter (Wally) Parkinson during the Lincs-Montreal Canadiens Alumni game last March 22 at the PRC.
A life-long Lucan resident, Parkinson, 69, passed away on Friday, Sept. 20. He played two years (1968-70) with the Lincolns. He also played Midget hockey in St. Marys before joining the Lincs. Parkinson is survived by his wife Ruth Ann, four children and five grandchildren.
What fond memories did Parkinson have playing for the Lincolns in St. Marys, he was asked during the March Alumni game.
“All the people in town were so friendly,” Parkinson recalled with a smile. “They had your back covered all the time. I loved the town and I loved the fans. We had great support when I played here. The old St. Marys arena was always full.”
There was a moment of silence for Parkinson prior to Lincs’ GOJHL home game last Friday night.