By Dan Rankin
After more than a season stuck in the GOJHL’s basement, Lincolns management decided it is time for a change. Merlin Malinowski’s second tenure as head coach of the St. Marys Junior B franchise ended this weekend. The team won four times in the past two seasons under Malinowski’s guidance.
Former assistant coach Jason Glover has been promoted to the team’s permanent head coach, while Rick O’Donnell and Jason Ross remain on as permanent assistant coaches. For now the coaching staff stands with just those three, however a third assistant coach may be added in the future, general manager of hockey operations Dustin Wenger said.
Though the Lincolns (2-11-1-2) may not have the best record to show for it, they proved during their Oct. 30 game against Lambton Shores last weekend that they can still put the puck in the net, as they unloaded for five goals during regulation time, including three in the first period.
Since being shutout in back-to-back contests Oct. 11 and 16, the Lincolns have 17 goals in five games. Unfortunately, they’ve allowed 30 goals in that span, and have only managed to pick up two points in the standings thanks to a tie and an overtime loss. Despite a high-scoring, double-overtime battle the night before Halloween, St. Marys fell just short of a win, as the Predators took them down 6-5. They’re now three points back of the conference’s final playoff spot with a game in hand over eighth place Lambton Shores (4-11-0-2).
Thanks to a flurry of early scoring, the Lincolns held the lead for over 15 minutes of game time last Friday, until the Predators tied things up and seemed to take over with two quick goals in the second period. It was just the second time this season the Lincons had lit the lamp with a three-goal first period, and the first time since Sept. 26 when they beat Lambton Shores 4-3. Their most productive 20 minutes so far this season came in their very first game back on Sept. 11, when they had a four-goal second period in a 7-5 loss to Brantford. St. Marys sits in eighth in their nine-team conference in Goals For (44) and Goals Against (80).
Phillip Buque opened scoring last Friday in the first with his fifth of the season, assisted by Matthew Philip and Tom McHenry. Less than two minutes later, Lambton Shores tied the game when Brenden Trottier, who had four points on the night, buried his first of the match. Firing right back, 17-year-old Jeff Schrattner of Barrie made a memorable debut for St. Marys, as he scored a pair of unanswered goals to put the Lincolns back out in front 3-1. Nolan King had an assist on each goal, while Brent House also picked up an assist, his 11th.
The Predators scored to draw within one goal 11 seconds later, spelling the end of the night for St. Marys goalie Ryan Langford who lasted only 15:29 into the game, making two saves on four shots. Paul Town came on in relief. That goal was the first of four unanswered by the Predators, who potted two in the second period to take a 4-3 lead, and one more early in the third period for some insurance – or so they thought.
Refusing to go home without at least a point to show for their efforts, the Lincolns fought back, with defenceman Trent Dundas scoring his first of the season five minutes into the third, and House solidifying the comeback with his 11th goal of the season several minutes later. He leads the team with 22 points.
Neither team could break through for the remainder of the third or the first overtime period, and the score sat at 5-5 heading to the second extra frame. Faced with some tough pressure by Lambton Shores early, the Lincolns iced the puck. Unable to change, the worn-out St. Marys side managed to reclaim possession, but iced the puck once more. Their long shift came to an end at 1:23 of double overtime when Trottier scored his second of the night to clinch the 6-5 win for Lambton Shores. Town was assessed the loss in net for St. Marys, making 32 saves on 36 shots.
Though they’ve picked up single points in two of their last five games, the Lincolns entered November winless in their last nine games. St. Marys was on the road in Sarnia (7-7-1-1) last night. The Legionnaires beat the Lincolns 5-4 in their last matchup Oct. 22, about three weeks after St. Marys topped Sarnia 5-1 for their first win of the season.
Tonight, the Lincolns host Strathroy (4-8-2-3). The Rockets beat St. Marys 5-2 in their only meeting so far this season back on Oct. 3. One more win by the Lincs would surpass last season’s disastrous record of eight points from a record of 2-43-4.