Lincs win back-to-back as race for first heats up - Grant Haven
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Lincs win back-to-back as race for first heats up

Lincs win back-to-back as race for first heats up

By Spencer Seymour
With a pair of victories last weekend, the St. Marys Lincolns made the race for top spot in the Western Conference even tighter.

Heading into this week, the Lincolns were tied with the LaSalle Vipers for second place in the West, both just one behind the London Nationals.

A double-header on home ice began last Friday against a team that’s had the Lincolns’ number in recent memory, the Chatham Maroons. Head coach Jeff Bradley acknowledged the strong admiration he has for the Maroons and why picking up the win over Chatham was especially significant for the Lincolns.

“Historically, while I’ve been here, we’ve always seemed to have a tough time against Chatham. They pose a different threat than other teams,” Bradley told the Independent. “They are incredibly hard to play against, they are very skilled and they pressure you to play a different, tougher game than you might be used to. We really respect that organization because every time we play them, it’s a tough game. We had to overcome some demons against that team so holding them off late in the game was really important for us.”

Both teams were firing right from the word go with the first goal of the game coming just nine seconds into the first period when Luca Spagnolo pounced on a loose puck and scored on the first shot of the game. Jaden Lee and James Sigmon picked up the assists. Spagnolo and Lee, along with linemate Owen Voortman, received high praise from their head coach after the win.

“That line is such a reliable, great line for us. We love sending that line out to start the game because the pace they play at really sets the tone for our team. Scoring 10 seconds in was huge for us but at the same time, in Owen’s case, his point totals don’t reflect how important he is to our team.”

Spagnolo’s goal snapped a seven-game scoreless drought. Just 26 seconds later, the Maroons tied the game at one apiece with Braeden Burke finding the back of the net. Later in the first, Aiden Edwards tipped a shot by Owen Kalp to make it 2-1 on a powerplay. However, before the period was out and with the Lincs on the man advantage, Spagnolo brought the game back to even with his second of the night. Maddox Callens and Billy VanSumeren picked up the assists.

Less than two minutes into the second, a pinballing puck bounced off Cohen Bidgood before going past Chatham netminder Kaleb Papineau. For the second time in the game though, the Maroons tied the game up less than a minute later on a goal by Cale Marontate. The back-and-forth affair continued until the final few minutes of the middle frame when Callens made an incredible solo effort to put the Lincolns back in the lead heading into the third.

In the third, a powerplay goal by Lee gave the Milton native goals in five of his last games. Lee is now also riding a six-game point streak. However, an inappropriate gesture following the goal resulted in Lee receiving a gross misconduct and, later, a two-game suspension. Once again, it took less than a minute for the Maroons to respond, this time on another powerplay as Graydon Jones flung a point shot into the top right corner of the net.

Late in the third, a big shot block by VanSumeren sent the puck into centre ice and Spagnolo managed to fire it into an empty net to seal the hat-trick and the 6-4 win.
Bradley said he was thrilled with how his team rose to meet the challenge of the visiting Maroons.

“We displayed a lot of habits that we need to have in order to have a successful season. Both teams were missing key guys. That gave opportunities to other guys to step up and they did. It gave other guys a chance on the powerplay, and we tried a few different experiments with guys in different positions and they all did well. We stepped up when we needed to step up. We got good, timely goal-scoring. The powerplay was great. Just overall, we were very happy with how we played.”
Gassed Lincs find a way by Stars

Following their 4-2 victory over the St. Thomas Stars just one day after beating Chatham, Bradley admitted that while it wasn’t the team’s best performance technically and structurally, his group still found a way to get the two points.

“We gave up 16 shots which was good, but I thought we got outworked on every single powerplay we got. It wasn’t the performance we wanted, but at this time of the season, a win is a win and we need the points. Thankfully, Brandon [Abbott] played the way he did and he deserved a lot of credit not just for [Saturday night] but for the whole weekend.”
Bradley added that he felt exhaustion was an element in the group not turning in their most complete effort last Saturday.

“It’s a tough point in the season when we’re playing a lot of hockey, we’ve got quite a few guys hurt, we’ve got guys in different positions. We’re trying to do the right things and sometimes you just don’t have it and that was a night when we didn’t have it. But we still found a way to win, and I think that says that we have both first-year guys like Ryan and Cohen and veterans like Maddox and Billy who can step up. Depth is really important because when your top guys have an off night, you need others to step up and luckily for us, they did.”

Goaltender Brandon Abbott backstopped the Lincolns to both victories last weekend despite playing with an illness, a feat that did not go unheralded by his teammates and the bench boss.

“Brandon [Abbott] was sick as a dog this weekend but with Colby [Booth-Housego] gone to the MacPherson Tournament, Brandon had to play both games for us. He stepped up and was an absolute warrior. Blake [Elzinga] played defence to fill a hole when we needed him to and Chase [MacQueen-Spence] played centre to fill a hole when we needed him to. All of our defencemen were outstanding, especially considering how banged up we are back there. There was a lot of good to take away from that game.”

“We challenged him a couple of weeks ago and asked him to step up and since then, he has been undefeated,” Bradley continued. “He has played unbelievably well. We all feel it when we’re sick. It’s tough to get to the rink and be mentally there but he showed he was made of special stuff this weekend. For a guy playing the most important position feeling the way he felt, it was massive for us and we certainly appreciated it.”

A breakdown allowed former Lincoln Wesley Wilding to get a breakaway on which he was hooked up, resulting in a penalty shot. Wilding managed to narrowly squeak the puck by Lincs’ goalie Brandon Abbott. However, like the Maroons did three times the night previously, St. Marys responded less than a minute later thanks to a point shot by Adam Barkley finding a way through the legs of Stars’ netminder Trenten Bennett.

Assists on Barkley’s goal went to Spagnolo and Sigmon, the latter of whom is now riding a four-game point streak.

After a powerplay goal by Quinn Gavin-White early in the second stanza put the Stars ahead by one, Callens made it four straight games on home ice when he ripped a quick shot in the high slot past Bennett. Just over five minutes later, Ryan Hodkinson flew up the ice on a shorthanded two-on-one and, with the passing lane cut off, took the shot and buried the go-ahead goal. Hodkinson, the eventual Player of the Game, was one of several players who Bradley was happy with.

“Cohen [Bidgood] doesn’t care who we’re playing against or when we’re playing, he just wants to show up, play and play hard. Ryan [Hodkinson] stepped up big time for us too. We needed a performance out of somebody and Cohen and Ryan definitely were examples of guys stepping up, as well as Maddox [Callens] and Billy [VanSumeren] who made some big plays for us.”

Hodkinson then tallied the only goal of the third period en route to a 4-2 win.

“Ryan wants to take jobs. He wants to be on the penalty kill. We put him on the wing last night and he’s not a natural winger, but he does what we ask as best as he can. Earlier in the season, we asked him to be more engaged physically and he’s not shying away from that at all. He’s starting to use his body more and, as he matures physically, he’s only going to get better at doing that. He’s an incredibly smart player, he’s got a great stick and he makes very good plays.”

The Lincs are back in action this Friday beginning their final pair of interconference games of the regular season by taking on the Elmira Sugar Kings. They then go on the road to visit the Pelham Panthers on Sunday. This Friday’s game is Jersey Night where everyone wearing any kind of jersey will be entered into a draw for some prizes.

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