By Scott Maxwell
A 7-4 road win over Lambton Shores (5-18-0-2) Saturday lifted the Lincolns out of last place and into a playoff spot. Phillip Buque had a four-point night, while Nathan Smith added three more. Lambton Shores had a couple of four-point players themselves, as Ethan Safarti and Brenden Trottier contributed to all four of the Preds’ goals.
The scoring started when Curtis Abbott buried a shot eight minutes into the game, with assists from Dan Cloutier and Buque to give the Lincs a 1-0 lead. A few minutes after the Preds tied the game, Buque got his second point of the evening, assisted by Cloutier and Abbott, to regain the lead. Graham Brulotte expanded that lead a few minutes later with a goal of his own, assisted by Brent House and Nolan King. Lambton Shores responded 38 seconds later with a goal to cut the lead in half before the period ended, with the Lincs in front 3-2 and outshooting the Preds 11-4.
The second period had less action than the first, as both Emanuel Vella and Keegan Paulette were solid. Brandon Glover scored the period’s first goal five minutes in, with Smith and Jack Wieringa assisting to give the Lincolns a 4-2 lead. A four minute butt-ending penalty from Vella resulted in a powerplay goal for the Preds at the 12:07 mark to make it a one goal game again. That score would hold going into the third, with the Predators having a shot lead of 11-8 that period.
Nathan Smith would score a shorthanded goal 55 seconds into the period to give the Lincolns another two-goal lead. Just over three minutes later, another penalty resulted in a Preds goal from Trottier, his second of the night, to cut the lead to 5-4. Four minutes later, House reclaimed a two-goal lead for the Lincolns with a goal assisted by Brulotte and King. Lambton Shores continued to press hard, outshooting the Lincolns 18-12 in the period, but Vella stood on his head, stopping 29 of 33 shots in the win. It was his first as a Lincoln. Buque topped off his four point night by scoring an empty net goal with 22 seconds left in the game, with Nathan and Glover getting assists on the goal.
Last weekend didn’t start off the way the Lincolns wanted, as they lost 9-0 to the St. Thomas Stars last Friday at the PRC. Adam Keyes and Ethan Nother had four-point performances for the Stars, including a hat trick by Nother. Dan Black stopped all 25 of St. Marys’ shots for the win.
The Lincs also played on Wednesday in a game against the LaSalle Vipers (13-8-3-1), looking for a chance to inch closer to Strathroy. That didn’t go as planned, as they got routed 7-2. King and Brulotte scored for St. Marys, but they couldn’t handle the depth of the Vipers. Eric Kirby and Maddux Rychel both had three points, while Liam MacDougall and Tyler Russell each put the puck in the net twice. Vella stopped 25 of 29 before getting pulled, and Paul Town stopped seven of 10 in relief.
25 games into the season, the Lincolns are in eighth place with 13 points (5-16-1-2). They’re just three points behind seventh place Strathroy, though the Rockets have played one fewer game. With only 58 goals scored, the Rockets’ (5-13-2-4) offense ranks ninth in the division, behind the eighth-place Lincolns scorers by 10 markers.
They next play Strathroy on Dec. 5. St. Marys is in action tonight at home against London, beginning at 7:30 pm. The Lincolns take the week off before another home game on Dec. 4 versus Sarnia.