ST. THOMAS – St. Marys Lincolns couldn’t carry the momentum they built at home Friday to their road game here Sunday night.
The home-town Stars grabbed an early 4-0 lead en route to a 7-3 Western Conference victory in front of approximately 400 fans at the Timken Rink.
St. Thomas improved to 2-2, leaving Stars in fourth place after weekend action.
After a great performance in their home opener Friday night, Lincs are now 0-3-1 after four regular-season games.
Stars opened up a 2-0 first-period lead on goals by James Newland and St. Marys minor hockey product Carson Brookshaw.
The home team struck for two more goals in the first 68 seconds of the middle frame, leaving Lincolns in a deep hole. The marksmen were Spencer Hutchinson and Carson Moniz.
Brent House finally put St. Marys on the scoreboard at the 12:06 mark of the period.
A goal by Lincs’ Graham Brulotte closed the gap to 4-2 at 3:34 of the third. However, Stars answered with three consecutive goals—in a span of less than four minutes—to regain control of the contest. Scoring for St. Thomas were Adam Keyes, Curtis Ferreira and Alex Turko.
Lincs’ rookie centre Nolan King completed the scoring with 8:37 to play. House earned an assist, his third point of the game.
St. Marys pulled rookie Ryan Langford after the fourth Stars’ goal early in the second period and replaced him with veteran Tyler Beattie.
Overall, shots were 33-31 in favour of St. Thomas. Lincolns held a 14-8 edge in the second period.
Brookshaw, Hutchinson and Turko all had a goal and two assists for the Stars.
Lincs’ coach Merlin Malinowski thought Sunday’s game was closer than the final score might indicate.
“The 7-3 score looks bad, and it kind of got away from us at the end, but the real killer was the first 1:08 of the second period when St. Thomas went bang-bang and scored those two quick goals,” he reported. “It was a couple of bad defensive miscues in our own end.
“Then we settled down and started playing the way we did on Friday night at home against LaSalle.”
Malinowski said his young squad created lots of scoring chances, but couldn’t get a favourable bounce.
“We had phenomenal scoring chances where the puck just jumped over our sticks,” he noted.
The veteran coach said his rookie-laden defence just needs to gain Jr. ‘B’ experience, and they also need to get “better goaltending.”
“Our young defencemen all have skills and they’re going to learn,” he added. “They just have to get some experience, and it’s going to take some time. But they will get better.”
Vipers 4 – Lincolns 3
At the Pyramid Rec. Centre Friday night, Lincolns earned their first point of the season in a 4-3 double-overtime loss to LaSalle Vipers.
About 350 spectators watched one of the best Jr. ‘B’ games at the PRC in the last two years. It was a well-played, hard-fought, entertaining contest.
In fact, Lincs probably deserved the two points on this night. LaSalle is projected to be one of the best teams in the Western division this season, and the young Lincolns squad gave Vipers all they could handle.
It’s a promising sign for St. Marys fans, who had very little to cheer about last season. They should be encouraged after watching the home opener.
The teams came out and set a fast pace from the opening face-off. LaSalle grabbed a 2-0 lead midway through the first period on goals by Manny Silverio and Nathan Savage (shorthanded).
The middle 20 minutes were one of the best periods of hockey Lincs have played on home ice in the last two years. Goals by Dan Cloutier and captain Brent House (powerplay) tied the score 2-2 before the five-minute mark of the period.
Lincolns went on to dominate the period, out-shooting the visitors 16-7. Only a couple of huge stops by Vipers’ goalie Eli Billing prevented Lincs from owning the lead going into the final 20 minutes.
After good pressure by Lincolns early in the third, LaSalle regained the lead at 5:26 on a goal by Connor Rosaasen.
With 2:05 remaining, Vipers were penalized for hooking and coach Malinowski pulled goalie Ryan Langford for a 6-on-4 advantage. It paid off when House knocked in a rebound with just 11 seconds left in regulation time, tying the score and forcing overtime. Graham Brulotte picked up his second assist on the goal.
The first five-minute overtime, featuring four skaters aside, went scoreless. LaSalle had a 5-2 edge in shots, with Langford making a big save late to keep it tied.
The second five-minute OT featured three skaters aside, and Vipers’ veteran Eric Kirby converted his own rebound for the winner at the 1:26 mark.
Langford, making his first regular-season start, played well. Lincs finished with a 34-32 edge in shots.
Following the game, Malinowski had nothing but praise for his team.
“It was a very encouraging performance tonight,” the coach said. “It’s just the energy and speed of this hockey club; it’s just so fun to watch.
“We gave LaSalle a tough night with our speed. I can’t say enough about our effort, and it’s too bad we couldn’t have come out with the two points tonight.
“LaSalle is ranked one of the top teams in our league. We have to feel good about it, but now we have to build on it . . . we can’t step back.
“I feel we’re improving each game, and who knows, maybe we can make a little noise in this league this year,” he added.
Upcoming: After hosting London Nationals this Friday, Lincolns travel to Forest Saturday to meet Lambton Shores Predators for the first time this season.
Both games start at 7:30 p.m.