By Dan Rankin
Two of the Lincolns’ last three games have been postponed, extending their season to at least Feb. 28 as they remain four points ahead of Lambton Shores for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
The Predators, who have also had two of their last three games called off due to unfavourable travel conditions, have a key showdown against St. Marys tonight at the Pyramid Centre. After tonight’s game, Lambton Shores has six more games to fill out their schedule, including a grueling stretch of three games in three nights on Feb. 26, 27 and 28. Softening the blow somewhat is the fact that their final five games will be in the welcoming confines of their home arena.
For their part, the Lincolns began a stretch of five games in seven days last night in St. Thomas. Only one of those matches is at the Pyramid Centre. The Predators, who have not earned a point in 10 games since a tie Jan. 10, would need to accumulate at least five points in their remaining six tilts to surpass St. Marys for eighth place.
As their Thursday, Feb. 11 game in Leamington was called off, St. Marys (8-31-1-3) welcomed Sarnia the following night with a week’s rest. That helped them play even with sixth place Sarnia (22-20-2-3) for two periods – the first and third – but couldn’t stop a three-goal barrage by the Legionnaires in the second frame on the way to 5-2 win for the visitors.
Graham Brulotte tallied his 19th goal of the season with a man advantage to open the scoring. Assisting were Jeff Schrattner and Brent House, who extended his season-high point streak to seven games. While on this tear, he’s notched 12 points, bringing his season total up to a team-leading 55. However, as he was unable to find the back of the net Friday, House’s five-game scoring streak was snapped.
Sarnia responded with five unanswered goals. The first came a few minutes later in the opening frame, scored by Ryan Vendramin, who finished with two goals and a helper on the night. His teammate blueliner Sam McCormack picked up an assist on the goal, part of his own three-point night; all assists.
In the second, Sarnia poured in three more, as well as one more midway through the third to give them a 5-1 lead. Ryan Trottier scored a pair of them, including a power play goal that followed a Josh Zlatinszky hooking penalty.
When Jordan Winter buried the game’s third power play goal with less than five minutes left to play it was too little, too late. However, for a game not loaded with positives, it’s worth noting that St. Marys did go 2-5 on the power play.
Emanuel Vella made 22 saves on 27 shots in net for St. Marys in the loss. Sarnia’s Aidan Hughes faced just 23 shots, stopping 21 in the win. It was the third loss in a row for St. Marys, who had previously won two out of three games.
St. Marys hosts Lambton Shores tonight at 7:30 pm. Following a day of rest tomorrow, the Lincolns can look forward to a busy week of hockey, with action Sunday in Leamington, Tuesday in Strathroy and Wednesday in London.