Pat Payton, Sports editor
Playoff hockey in September?
St. Marys Lincolns and Strathroy Rockets had the intensity level cranked to the ceiling for their first meeting of the season last Friday night at the Pyramid Rec. Centre.
The long-time Western Conference rivals combined for 124 penalty minutes in a game Lincs won 5-4 in a shootout in front of about 275 fans.
“Strathroy always competes and goes hard,” Lincolns’ coach Jamie Baker said with a shrug. “They’re going to come hard all night, and we’re going to push back; we’re going to compete hard, too.
“Sometimes you get two teams playing hard, and the intensity ramps up. Sometimes games like tonight happen.”
Rockets’ coach Jeff Van Vliet agreed.
“There were a couple of big hits on both sides, and then the emotions got into the game,” said Van Vliet, a former Lincs’ coach. “Actually, it was a pretty good game.
“There were a lot of penalties and quite a few powerplay goals on both sides. It certainly looks like we might have a rivalry,” he added with a smile.
The teams combined for five powerplay goals, with Strathroy scoring three times and St. Marys twice.
It took 10 shooters, meanwhile, before the outcome was decided. Lincolns’ Reid Oliver, the 10th shooter, scored the winner when he beat Rockets’ goalie Gordie Weiss with a nice deke.
“I was planning on doing that move because I’ve done it in practice the odd time,” Oliver said. “I noticed that (Weiss) was back in his net a lot, so I tried to get him to come across and open up his legs.”
Mike Mandarelli also scored for St. Marys in the shootout, tying it 1-1, while Wes Baker replied for Strathroy. Lincs’ goalie Devin Golets stopped the last four Rockets’ shooters.
Fourth straight win
After a 0-2 start, it was Lincolns’ fourth straight win and it moved them temporarily into sole possession of first place. The SO loss dropped Rockets’ record to 2-1-1.
After weekend action, St. Marys (4-2) and Chatham Maroons (4-1) sit in a tie atop the standings. They hold a two-point lead on London Nationals and Leamington Flyers, who are both 3-1.
Solid team effort in Leamington
At the beautiful Kinsmen Recreation Centre last Thursday night, three goals by captain Sean Consitt and 42 saves from veteran goalie Devin Golets sparked Lincolns to a 5-1 victory over the home-town Flyers in front of an estimated 575 spectators.
After opening the regular schedule with three straight wins, it was Flyers first loss.
Lincs earned the two points with a solid team effort on the road.
“It was excellent; a good team effort,” beamed coach Baker after the game. “This Leamington team has a dynamite powerplay and we shut them down, so it was a real key to our success tonight.”
Flyers went 0-for-9 with the man advantage.
Two of Consitt’s three goals came while killing penalties, including his hat trick goal which came with 1:24 remaining into an empty Leamington net.
Upcoming: Lincolns host LaSalle Vipers (1-2-2) this Friday at 7:30 p.m. On Sunday, Lincs make their first trip to Chatham to play the Maroons at 7 o’clock.
LINCOLNS 5 - ROCKETS 4
(Friday, Sept. 21 in St. Marys)
The game: Lincolns held 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 leads, but Rockets forced extra time with a powerplay goal with 6:30 left in the third period.
Lincs had a great chance to win it in the five-minute overtime. With a 4-on-3 powerplay, they had several good chances, but couldn’t get a puck behind Weiss.
“I thought we battled hard, but we ended up in the (penalty) box too many times,” coach Jamie Baker said. “We have to find ways to be smarter and get away from retaliation penalties.
“We’re giving teams too many powerplays, and it’s a tough league to win in when you’re constantly killing off penalties. So we were fortunate tonight to come out on the winning end.”
Period scores: Rockets led 2-1 after the first period; Lincs led 4-3 after 40 minutes; teams were tied 4-4 after three periods and overtime.
Goal scorers: Calvin Penney, with two, David Sproat (shorthanded) and defenceman Jonathan Rizzo scored in regulation for St. Marys. Penney and Rizzo both connected on powerplays. Defencemen Kurtis Lavis and Kyle Flemington both contributed two assists.
Nick Boyer (powerplay), Tyler Coleman, Ryan Field (powerplay) and Wes Baker (powerplay) answered for Strathroy.
Penalty picture: Lincolns took 92 penalty minutes, Rockets 32. There were four five-minute majors handed out as well as five 10-minute misconducts.
In a first-period melee that he didn’t start, rookie centre Mike Siddall picked up a fighting major and instigator and will have to sit out a suspension.
Shots on net: Overall, Rockets held a 44-39 edge in shots. Lincolns, with a two-minute powerplay, out-shot the visitors 4-2 in overtime.
LINCOLNS 5 - FLYERS 1
(Thursday, Sept. 20 in Leamington)
The game: Jumping out to a 3-0 lead was key for the Lincolns, who made the best of every good scoring chance in the opening 20 minutes.
Dean Pawlaczyk opened the scoring 71 seconds into the game, and defenceman Kurtis Lavis fired a laser from the point at 8:23. Captain Consitt scored his first of three at 15:21 after a great set-up from Reid Oliver.
“When it was 2-0, Leamington had a great scoring chance and Devo (Golets) shut the door, and then we went down on the next shift and made it 3-0,” coach Baker pointed out. “So we got the key saves at the right time.”
Flyers got their only goal late in the opening period, closing the gap to 3-1.
Lincs held their two-goal lead in the second period, thanks to a couple of huge stops by Golets.
While killing a penalty, Consitt made it 4-1 midway through the third, converting a perfect pass from centre Mike Siddall. Consitt completed an outstanding night with a shorthanded, unassisted empty-netter at 18:36.
Trailing 4-1 at the time, Leamington coach Tony Piroski pulled his goalie for an extra attacker with just under four minutes to play.
Period scores: Lincs led 3-1 after the first period, and 3-1 after 40 minutes.
Goal scorers: Sean Consitt sparked the St. Marys offence with a hat trick. The singles went to Dean Pawlaczyk and Kurtis Lavis. Mike Siddall contributed two nice assists.
Tony Spidalieri replied for Leamington.
Penalty picture: Lincolns took 24 of the 40 penalty minutes. Neither side scored with the man advantage, but Consitt burned the Flyers with a pair of shorthanded tallies.
“Our PK (penalty-killing) was dynamite tonight,” Baker added.
Shots on net: Overall, Leamington out-shot St. Marys 43-27, including 17-6 in the third period. Golets improved to 1-1 with the win.
“When (Flyers) got quality chances to score, Devo was there to shut the door,” the coach added.