By Dan Rankin
Winners of two out of their last three, the St. Marys Lincolns entered February having earned points in four out of their last nine games. Not only that, but their 4-0 shutout win over Strathroy last Friday gave them a four-point buffer over ninth-place Lambton Shores for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
If you’re not excited, you haven’t been paying attention.
The Lincolns, who have been shutout four times this season (and were shutout a combined total of 15 times in the previous two seasons), had not shut out an opponent since Oct. 30, 2011. By the way, that game, a 2-0 road win, was also against Strathroy.
The win Friday brought the Lincolns (8-28-1-3) to a nice round 20 points in the standings, an amount that has already eclipsed their point totals from the past two seasons (8 last season and 19 in 2013-2014) with a full month’s worth of games left to play. What’s more, seventh-place Strathroy (11-21-3-8) has not yet clinched a playoff spot. Could this St. Marys squad close out the season on a hot streak and wind up in seventh place, thereby avoiding a deadly first-round matchup against first-place Leamington? Maybe not, but with nine games left to play (after last night’s tilt in St. Thomas), it’s not mathematically out of the question.
The point is, the Lincs still control their own destiny and are very much in the hunt for a GOJHL playoff spot. They’re even on the verge of winning at least 10 regular season games for the first time since 2012-2013.
Brent House, who opened the scoring Friday assisted by Nolan King and Jordan Winter, tallied his 23rd goal of the season in the win. That mark alone ties his point output for all of last season. More remarkably, the goal was his 50th point of the campaign. The last time a member of the Lincolns notched 50 points in a season was the 2011-2012 season when Brendon Merritt (53), Mitchell Berzins (53), Brady Wiffen (53) and Sean Consitt (55) all did it. House, who scored a hat trick Jan. 22, is on a four-game point streak – as is team mate Nathan Smith who picked up two assists in the win Friday. Also scoring were Dan Cloutier, Philip Buque (his 10th), on the power play, and Matt Granger, who is on a three-game point streak of his own.
Goaltender Emanuel Vella stopped all 25 shots he faced in his first Junior B shutout win.
The Lincolns, who were on the road against fourth-place St. Thomas last night, host third-place Chatham this evening. That game gets underway at the Pyramid Centre at 7:30 pm.