In the tight Western Conference standings, no wins seem to come easy for any team.
St. Marys Lincolns’ coach Jamie Baker is well aware that every two points have to be earned—especially against long-time rivals like St. Thomas Stars.
After losing 4-2 to the Nationals two nights earlier in London, Baker was pleased to see his team bounce back with a 5-3 victory over the Stars in front of about 275 fans last Friday at the Pyramid Rec. Centre.
“Every team in our league is capable of beating any other team, and going in to the third period tonight we were up 4-2, but it wasn’t a guaranteed win, that’s for sure,” Baker pointed out.
“And St. Thomas showed that. They scored again and all of a sudden it was a one-goal game. The parity is just there in our conference. You have to pick up your points where you can; it could determine if you finish in the top four or the bottom four.”
Veteran Dean Pawlaczyk finally clinched the win for Lincs with an unassisted goal with just 1:16 left to play.
With the victory, Lincs (6-4-1) leap-frogged over both London and LaSalle Vipers and into sole possession of third place. Following weekend action, St. Marys sits a tie with Strathroy Rockets (6-5-1). Both clubs are five points behind front-running Chatham Maroons (9-2) and Leamington Flyers (9-4).
St. Thomas (4-5-1), which came into the game just two points behind St. Marys, is mired in last place after weekend action.
Third-period rally falls short
At the Western Fair sports complex last Wednesday night, Lincolns trailed 3-0 after two periods, but scored twice in the first six minutes of the third to pull to within a goal.
Lincs held a 5-on-3 powerplay with less than five minutes to play, but couldn’t produce the equalizer. Nationals clinched the win with an empty-net goal in the game’s final minute.
“We have to start playing a full 60 minutes to win games,” Lincolns’ captain Sean Consitt said. “And we have to be ready to play when the first puck is dropped.”
Nats temporarily moved one point ahead of the Lincs with the win, in front of about 650 fans.
This weekend: Lincolns host Chatham Maroons, who own the conference’s best record to date, this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Lincs are off to Forest to meet Lambton Shores Predators (4-5-2) at 7:30 p.m.
LINCOLNS 5 - STARS 3
(Friday, Oct. 12 in St. Marys)
The game: Lincolns were up 2-1 after the first period, and increased their lead to 4-1 by the 12:43 mark of the middle frame.
However, Stars wouldn’t go quietly. they closed the gap to 4-3 with still almost eight minutes to play in the third. Lincs also had to kill off a four-minute double minor for spearing.
Pawlaczyk’s fourth the of the season clinched the win for St. Marys with just over a minute remaining.
“I thought our team played well tonight,” coach Baker said. “We made some adjustments with some neutral-zone work, and we worked hard on our PK (penalty-killing) this past week at practice. And our PK really come big for us tonight, especially at the end when we had to kill that four-minute penalty.
“I thought it was a really good team effort, and everybody contributed,” he added.
Period scores: Lincs led 2-1 after the first period; 4-2 after 40 minutes.
Goal scorers: David Sproat (powerplay), Owen MacDonald (his fifth), Mike Mandarelli (powerplay), Sean Consitt (his sixth) and Dean Pawlaczyk scored for St. Marys. Defenceman Jonathan Rizzo chipped in two assists.
Mike Iacocca, with two, and Luc Knight replied for St. Thomas.
Three veterans out: Western students Reid Oliver and Tyler Bryson had school commitments and didn’t play for Lincolns. Defenceman Danny Bryan is still out a couple of more weeks with a lower body injury.
Penalty picture: Stars took 22 of the 38 penalty minutes. Lincs went 2-for-7 with the man advantage; St. Thomas 1-for-8.
Shots on net: Overall, Lincolns out-shot the Stars 31-28. Goalie Devin Golets evened his record at 3-3 with the win.
Season series: St. Marys leads the season series 1-0.
NATIONALS 4 - LINCOLNS 2
(Wednesday, Oct. 10 in London)
The game: A powerplay goal by Aaron Dartch and two by centre Noah Schwartz staked Nationals to their 3-0 lead.
Dean Pawlaczyk finally got Lincolns on the board at 3:01 of the third, and Reid Oliver—with his sixth of the season—pulled the visitors to within a goal on a powerplay just under three minutes later.
After killing off a four-minute London powerplay, Lincs had a great chance to tie it with a 5-on-3 powerplay with less than five minutes to play. However, they couldn’t get a puck behind Nats’ goalie Taylor Edwards.
A roughing penalty with 1:18 remaining hurt Lincolns’ comeback chances, and Jonathan Sims sealed the win for Nationals into an empty St. Marys net with 37 seconds left on the clock.
“We didn’t quit and we came on in the third, but at the end of the day it’s still a loss,” coach Baker said. “We have to find ways to compete for the whole 60 minutes and come away with points.”
Period scores: Nats led 1-0 after the first period; 3-0 after 40 minutes.
Goal scorers: Noah Schwartz scored twice for London, while the singles went to Aaron Dartch (powerplay) and Jonathan Sims (empty net).
The veteran Schwartz, the leading scorer in the Western division, now has nine goals and 25 points in nine games. He has collected six points in two wins against the Lincs to date.
Dean Pawlaczyk and Reid Oliver (powerplay) replied for St. Marys. Oliver has a team-leading five powerplay goals.
Penalty picture: Lincolns took 25 of the 44 penalty minutes. There were two fighting majors handed out early in the third.
“I think we ran into penalty problems in the first two periods, and it’s tough to get some momentum going when you’re continually killing off penalties,” coach Baker said.
Shots on net: Overall, Nationals out-shot the Lincs 34-27. Lincolns held a 12-4 advantage in the final 20 minutes.
Devin Golets took the loss for St. Marys.
Season series: Nats now lead the season series 2-0.