By Pat Payton
Special teams proved to be the difference last Friday night at the PRC.
Two second-period powerplay goals lifted Leamington Flyers to a 4-2 victory over St. Marys Lincolns. Flyers’ penalty-killing was also very solid, holding Lincs (0-for-6) off the scoresheet when they had the man advantage.
“Special teams were the difference,” Leamington coach Cam Crowder said afterwards. “I think our penalty-kill won the game for us tonight. But St. Marys works hard and they make you earn everything you get.”
Things started well for Lincolns when affiliate defenceman Caleb MacDonald scored just 46 seconds into the contest. Thomas Michaud tied it at 2:59 when Flyers capitalized on a turnover in the St. Marys zone.
Leamington took a 2-1 lead at the 10-minute mark of the middle frame on a goal by Ryan Gagnier, but Lincs were quick to respond. Newcomer Thomas McLatchie scored his first goal as a Lincoln just 39 seconds later.
Back-to-back powerplay goals
Flyers’ captain Levi Tetrault scored the winning goal at 13:02, while the visitors were holding a 5-on-3 man advantage. Wyatt O’Neil added an insurance goal just over a minute later with Leamington holding a one-man advantage.
In the third, Lincs held a 9-4 edge in shots, but could pull no closer. Flyers took two minor penalties in the final three minutes, and Lincolns also pulled goalie Justin Richer for an extra attacker with 1:30 left on the clock. But Leamington, a good puck-control team, limited St. Marys to just a couple of quality chances.
“Five-on-five, we thought we were playing them pretty well,” said Lincs’ assistant GM/coach Greg Smale. “But we took a bad penalty and we have to be accountable for those mistakes. They buried their chances on the powerplay, and we didn’t capitalize on ours.
“We out-shot them 23-18 tonight, but it was one powerplay that was the difference against a very good hockey team. We can be proud of our effort, but if we want to be a playoff team we have to figure out those little things. Retaliating and taking bad penalties have killed us all year.
“Leamington’s a good club; they’re well-coached,” Smale added. “They’re second in the standings for a reason. It’s something we aspire to be.”
Friday’s loss leaves Lincolns with a record of 9-23-3-1 in the Western Conference standings. They are still five points behind St. Thomas Stars (11-19-3-2) in the chase for the final playoff spot. The struggling Stars lost 5-2 on home ice to LaSalle Vipers last Friday.
Leamington improved its record to 20-7-1-3 with Friday’s win, temporarily moving into second place. Following weekend action, Chatham Maroons (20-9-2-3) were back in second spot–one point ahead of the Flyers.
–Lincolns played their final regular-season game against Leamington last Friday, finishing with a 1-5 record against the Flyers.
–The 4-2 defeat to Leamington Friday was the ninth time this season that Lincs have lost by a two-goal margin.
–Lincolns have a huge weekend ahead, hosting Komoka Kings Friday night and travelling to Strathroy Saturday to face the Rockets. Both GOJHL games start at 7:30 p.m.