By Dan Rankin
If you’ll remember, last week in this space, we talked about how it was not mathematically out of the question for the Lincolns (8-30-1-3) to rack up seven or eight wins this month to take a shot at passing Strathroy (11-22-3-9) for seventh place, thereby missing out on a first round meeting with mighty Leamington (35-7-1-0) in the playoffs.
St. Marys still has eight games left to play, as their showdown in Leamington yesterday was postponed due to weather. That’s still more than enough to accumulate the 15 points they need to pass Strathroy (who only has five left to play, including one versus the Lincolns). However, St. Marys didn’t do themselves any favours in their first two games this month, falling 3-1 in St. Thomas last Thursday followed by an 8-3 shellacking by Chatham at home on Friday.
While it’s not yet certain whether the Rockets will be in seventh or eighth place, they’ve now clinched a playoff berth, leaving Lambton Shores and St. Marys to duke it out over who will be the odd team out.
In St. Thomas on Feb. 4, the Stars got on the board first midway through in the opening frame, but Lincolns leading scorer Brent House answered back to tie the game just over a minute later. Tristan Gallant and Jeff Schrattner picked up assists on the play. That was the last even-strength goal of the game, and the last one by St. Marys full stop. In the second period, after his teammate Carson Moniz had taken a hooking penalty, Carson Brookshaw scored a shorthanded goal to give the Stars a 2-1 lead. Spencer Hutchinson padded their lead with a power play goal early in the third period.
Lincolns goalie Emanuel Vella, who took a pair of delay of game penalties in the early going, took the loss in net, making 45 saves on 48 shots. Stars netminder Nikolas Dampier stopped 35 shots for the win.
Special teams were an issue again the following night as, in their 8-3 win, Chatham went 2-6 on the power play and also buried a shorthanded goal. It was the 13th shorthanded goal the Lincolns have allowed this season, which is tied for the most in the SOJHL with the Pelham Pirates (1-37-0-4). The Lincolns have been shorthanded just 170 total times this season, the third-best rate in the league, but have a penalty-killing rate of just over 73.5 percent. Their penalty-kill ranks in the league’s bottom two with Lambton Shores.
Four Maroons had 3-point nights, while only House managed three points for the Lincolns, with a goal and two assists. It was the 25th goal of the season for House, who extended a six-game point streak, during which time he has seven goals and four assists.
Vella took another loss in net, allowing five goals on 20 shots. Paul Town came on in relief of Vella, stopping five of eight shots in just over 10 minutes of action. Parker Butler faced 31 shots for Chatham in the win, stopping 28.
The Lincolns are scheduled for a home game tonight against Sarnia, beginning at 7:30 pm. They play in Strathroy tomorrow night at 7:30 pm. St. Marys opens the final five game stretch of the season next Thursday, Feb. 18 in St. Thomas. Also tonight, the Stars could do St. Marys a big favour if they can manage to win in regulation time, when they host Lambton Shores.