By Dan Rankin
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: three recent losses have the Lincolns sitting in ninth place of the Western Conference, and behind only the Pelham Pirates in the Golden Horseshoe Conference for last place overall in the GOJHL.
That was the story for the majority of last season for St. Marys, as they went 1-12-2 in their first 15 games and walked away with just four points to show from the season’s first two months. As we prepare to turn the page on October, the team is stuck with a record of 2-11-1-1 – a mere two-point improvement on last season. A two-game winning streak – the team’s first pair of back-to-back wins since Dec. 13-19, 2013 (and against the same two teams, Lambton Shores and Sarnia) – had the Lincolns near the middle of the standings early in the month. They’ve since fallen back down to Earth, with an eight-game winless streak entering tonight’s home game against eighth place Lambton Shores.
Wednesday in London, St. Marys made it three consecutive losses when they fell 7-3 to the Nationals. For the game, St. Marys turned to goaltender Emmanuel Vella, a rookie member of the OHL’s London Knights, who backstopped them to a 3-3 tie in his Lincolns debut on Oct. 18. Vella made 45 saves in the loss, keeping St. Marys in the game until the Nationals unleashed with a four-goal third period.
Lincolns leading-scorer Brent House figured into all three of his goals Wednesday, scoring to tie the game at 1-1 in the first period (assisted by Brandon Glover), chipping in an assist on Graham Brulotte’s second period power play goal, which cut London’s lead to 3-2, and assisting on Dan Cloutier’s goal in the final frame. That goal made it 5-3. In less than four minutes, London had re-extended their lead to 7-3 and put away the game.
In their road loss to Sarnia on Oct. 22, making his second start with the team, Vella stopped 46 of the 51 shots he faced but it wasn’t enough, as St. Marys fell 5-4.
St. Marys opened scoring in the first period with their first shorthanded goal of the season, care of Philip Buque and assisted by Nathan Smith.
In the second, Sarnia (7-5-1-1) scored two quick goals to take a 2-1 lead before House potted his eighth of the campaign to even the score. Nolan King assisted on the goal for his first of three helpers in the game. House and King assisted on another goal before the end of the frame, scored by Brulotte, but two more by Sarnia (one on the power play) had the home team up 4-3 entering the third.
At 6:58 of the third, St. Marys’ power play unit answered back as Brulotte netted his second of the game, assisted by Matt Granger and King. This had the tense game tied, with four goals apiece. It stayed that way until, with just over a minute left in regulation, Jordan Fogarty scored his second of the night for the Legionnaires to give them the lead and the win. Jakob Knowles got the win in net for Sarnia, stopping 25 of 29 shots.
The following night, Vella was on the bench backing up London Knights starter Tyler Parsons as the Knights beat Owen Sound 5-1 at Budweiser Gardens. Without Vella for their game last Friday at the Pyramid Centre, St. Marys’ goaltending wasn’t able to keep things close against second-place LaSalle (8-4-2-1). The Vipers scored six unanswered goals in the first, followed by two more in the second on the way to a lopsided 9-2 victory.
St. Marys starter Paul Town was chased from the net midway through the first after allowing four goals on 15 shots. Ryan Langford came on in relief of Town, allowing five goals on 38 shots.
It was House scoring his ninth of the season that finally helped St. Marys break through the wall put up by Vipers goalie Paolo Battisti, who stopped all 27 shots he faced in the first and second. King and Ryan Martin assisted. House’s goal made it 8-1.
Jared Lindsay added a shorthanded goal later in the third period, assisted by Smith and Tom McHenry, to make it 9-2. Despite that production from Lincolns penalty killers, St. Marys’ special teams demons were back to haunt them Friday, as they went 0-for-6 on the power play. Meanwhile, even though LaSalle only had three power play opportunities, they converted two of those chances for goals.
Battisti finished with 32 saves on 34 shots, also picking up an assist during LaSalle’s six-goal first period.
St. Marys hosts eighth place Lambton Shores (3-10-0-2) in a Halloween affair tonight beginning at 7:30 pm.