By Pat Payton
St. Marys Lincolns passed the one-third mark of their GOJHL regular schedule this past weekend. After 19 games, Lincs own a 13-4-1-1 record — good for 28 points. Currently on a four-game winning streak, the team sits just three points out of first place in the Western Conference standings.
In a recent interview with Trent McClement, the Lincolns’ head coach said he’s pleased with the progress of the team to date. But there is still room for improvement, he noted.
“We’ve had a great start,” he said. “We’re further ahead than our expectations were at the start of the season. I think it’s because our defensive play has really stepped up. We have the lowest goals-against (2.36 in the West) right now. We’re keeping everybody to the outside and not letting anybody in the house.
“But offensively, we have to be better. We’re creating chances . . . we just have to find ways to bury those chances. You have to practice it enough to get it in the players’ heads, then they’re doing it all the time. They’re going to the net with their sticks on the ice, and they’re shooting low instead of going top shelf. It becomes second nature . . . it’s practice and repetition.”
After this past weekend, Lincs have averaged 3.68 goals for–per game.
McClement warns of complacency, too. He likes the Lincolns’ start, but stresses that they have to keep improving just to keep pace with the division’s top contenders.
“We’re in the thick of things, but we have to keep getting better,” he said. “It’s shown that on any given night, anybody can beat anybody else in this league. The team that becomes the most consistent team, game in and game out, is going to be the scary team.”
The coach also praised his goaltenders, Kyle Curtin and Gleb Poliakov, who have been a big reason for Lincs’ strong team goals-against record to date.
“Curtin has been our MVP so far this season,” he said. “Right now, I think he’s the best goalie in our conference. We knew going in that he was going to play well. He’s another guy who’s playing even better than expected, so it’s an added bonus.”
Curtin has posted nine wins to date.
–Lincolns honoured Jacob Bloomfield prior to Sunday’s home game against St. Thomas Stars. The diminutive 18-year-old centreman from Burford was named Lincs’ Player-of-the-Month for October, sponsored by Buick-GM.
The hard-working Bloomfield had nine points (3-6) last month, including an overtime winner against Chatham Maroons Oct. 25.
–Long-time Lincolns’ supporter and former executive member John Froud was the winner of the grand prize of $15,000 in last Friday night’s annual Elimination Draw at the PRC. Froud, a RR1 St. Marys resident, served on the Lincs’ executive for six or seven years.
‘The three sisters’ owned the second-last ticket pulled from the drum. It was worth $1,000. The third-last ticket belonged to Pau Dunseith, of St. Marys, and was worth $500.
All 500 tickets for the draw were sold.
–Lincolns recently traded defenceman Jack Lucas to the Exeter Jr. ‘C’ Hawks. “After we acquired (Nathan) Small and (Riley) Coome, we kept eight defencemen for a little while,” coach McClement explained. “Hopefully Jack can still affiliate with us, and maybe next year he’s back on our team. But he should get a lot of playing time in Exeter.”
The St. Marys minor hockey product, who turns 18 this month, was starting this second season with the Lincs.
–There has been a coaching change in Chatham. GM Tyler Roeszler, 31, is back behind the Maroons’ bench, replacing another former Chatham player Kyle Makaric, 30. Roeszler previously coached the Maroons for three seasons, resigning in May of 2016.
Maroons were 6-8-1-3 at the time of the recent change, having lost six of their last seven games.
–Lincolns are holding their annual Remembrance Day ceremony prior to this Friday’s game (Nov. 8) against Strathroy Rockets. The Royal Canadian Legion and ANAF colour parties, as well as a piper, will again be part of the ceremony.