Lincs fall to Cyclones in Sutherland Cup Final - Grant Haven
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Lincs fall to Cyclones in Sutherland Cup Final

Lincs fall to Cyclones in Sutherland Cup Final

By Spencer Seymour
The St. Marys Lincolns season came to an end May 12 when they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Listowel Cyclones.
The win ended the GOJHL championship series in five games and gave the Cyclones their second Sutherland Cup in franchise history.
Game three saw Listowel take a 2-1 series lead May 7 with a 2-1 overtime win. Both goals scored in regulation came in the first period, which was dominated by the Cyclones. Mason Eurig opened the scoring with a goal at the 15:15 mark of the period. With just 19 seconds left in the first, Owen Voortman tied the game with a shorthanded goal.
Head coach Jeff Bradley felt his team played much better in the final two periods of regulation after a less than stellar start.
“We were a little too tentative, a little too deliberate and second to pucks too often in the first period,” Bradley told the Independent. “Fortunately for us, Brandon (Abbott) was dialled in and he kept us in the game. Owen’s goal was big for us as it allowed us to close that chapter on the first period. I thought, in the second and third period, our guys started to push the pace a little bit. We started getting pucks up as fast as they could and getting into that attack mode, so I liked our last two periods (of regulation).”
The Lincolns were outshot 20-11 in the first 20 minutes as opposed to a much-closer differential of 19-16 in the second and third periods combined. The tighter play saw both teams unable to score in the final 40 minutes, sending the game to overtime. In the extra frame, a tripping penalty assessed to Adam Barkley put Listowel on a powerplay which ended with a point shot by Jordan Alexander travelling through a maze in front and into the Lincolns’ net.
Bradley explained how he felt his team showed positive signs of adjusting to the physical style of the Cyclones.
“As the series goes on, you start to get a feel for your opponent. You see what they’re about and understanding that physicality is a part of Listowel’s game is important. Sometimes, that takes a little bit of time to get used to and I thought we did better on that.”
Though St. Marys only had one full powerplay opportunity along with an abbreviated man advantage, Bradley liked what he saw from the team’s powerplay.
“I thought it looked good. Obviously, it’s about production and we didn’t get that, but we’re starting to see some progression game after game and then in practice as well. There were definitely some good things to take away from how our powerplay looked, especially with the Cornfield unit.”
Bradley had high praise for defenceman James Sigmon, who the bench boss believed was a linchpin on the team’s blueline in the championship series.
“James has just been unbelievable these playoffs and in this series. He’s been our best defenceman by a mile. He works incredibly hard. He’s smart. He pushes the pace. Everything he does helps our team and he’s a great partner for Adam (Barkley). Obviously, Adam is the incredible player that he is, so to have a guy like James with the speed and smarts he has, it’s a great compliment to what Adam brings. Plus, he’s able to play the left side as a right-shot guy, which is very helpful, too.”
Three-goal third lifts Cyclones past Lincs in Game 4
The series shifted back to St. Marys May 10 for game four but, once again, a lack of depth and powerplay scoring by St. Marys combined with an explosive third period by Listowel pushed the Cyclones to a 4-3 win.
Bradley liked the performance by his squad, feeling once again victory was well within reach.
“It was a great back-and-forth game, but it’s just unfortunate we came out on the wrong side of it. Of the first four games, that was our best overall game. We’ve lost two very tight games and one where we had a little bit of a letdown. For the most part, we’ve played well this series but (game four) was definitely our best overall effort.”
Luca Spagnolo scored the first two goals of the game, both of which were set up by Jaden Lee with the second goal being a shorthanded tally. Bradley explained why the line of Spagnolo, Lee and Owen Voortman was able to break through the Cyclones’ defence that otherwise shut the Lincs down.
“They’re not scared to work along the boards and get in front of the net. That’s what you need with playoff hockey. You can’t be a perimeter player and those are three guys that are definitely not perimeter players. They’ll play anywhere. They play any style of game you want to play.
They’ve got the will. They care and they love winning.”
Though the trio didn’t find the back of the net, Bradley also credited the newly-minted line of Ryan Hodkinson, Maddox Callens and Billy VanSumeren, who the head coach appreciated for the amount of offensive pressure they facilitated.
“It’s nice to see the Hodkinson line with Maddox and Billy do really well together. We’ve been starved for another line to step up other than the Spagnolo line, so it was really nice to have another line do that. They didn’t get on the scoresheet, but most of the time, the puck was in the offensive zone which is what we need from them.”
Luke Eurig cut the Lincolns’ lead to one with a goal just over 12 minutes into the second frame. Merely 46 seconds into the third, Ben MacRobbie potted a powerplay goal to tie the game at two apiece. St. Marys retook a one-goal lead at the 4:38 mark of the third – the first goal of the playoffs for former Cyclone Ryder Livermore, whose consistent willingness to do hard, physical work in the defensive zone made it special to see the Exeter, Ont. native get on the scoresheet.
“It was great for him. Ryder has been a bit of an unsung hero for us. We’re playing his old team, who traded him away, so for him to score in a game that big in the Sutherland Cup Final, it’s huge for Ryder. He does not do this for the points, but for him to get a big goal like that to put us back in the lead at the time was massive for the whole team,” Bradley said.
The never-say-die Cyclones continued to push back, however, leading to goals by Mason Eurig and Tanner Dietz just two minutes and 21 seconds apart, the latter of which went down as the game-winner.
When asked what made the Cyclones such a difficult team to penetrate offensively, Bradley remarked on the defensive parallels between the two teams vying for the Sutherland Cup.
“It probably would be the same thing they would say about us. They’ve only scored one more goal than us in two of the three games they won. It’s just tighter at this time of year. Ice isn’t as easily available, so you’ve got to battle harder. Listowel is a big team, they’re a driven team, they want to win and when you’re facing a team that will do anything to win, it’s tough to push them off their gameplan but that’s what we have to figure out a way to do.”
Cyclones win Sutherland Cup in Game 5 OT
A lacklustre first period was answered by a stellar second and third period, but the bruised and battered Lincolns ultimately couldn’t withstand the pressure of the Cyclones, who earned a 4-3 victory in overtime to win the Sutherland Cup Final four games to one.
Bradley noted that, much like game three, the Lincs didn’t start the game the way they needed, as evidenced by a 2-0 lead taken by Listowel heading into the first intermission, with goals coming from Wylie Birkett and Wyatt Kerr.
“We had a slow start. We were a little late to battles and just not very ready to go. But after the first, we played a great game. We talked about how, if we get the powerplay going, we could maybe start to strike a little bit of fear into Listowel, so for us to tie it up on two powerplay goals and then go up on a powerplay goal was big for us.”
After failing to score on a first-period man advantage, the Lincolns dropped to zero goals on 17 powerplays in the series. They also only had one goal in the series from someone other than Voortman, Spagnolo, or Lee.
In game five, however, all of that changed.
Chase MacQueen-Spence got the Lincolns on the board with a powerplay tally just under
six-and-a-half minutes into the second frame, which snapped a seven-game goal drought for the Western Conference Playoff MVP. Almost exactly nine minutes later, overage defender Josh Cornfield fired another powerplay goal to tie the game at 2-2.
In the third, back on the powerplay, Maddox Callens rocketed home a goal that not only put St. Marys ahead by one but ended an 11-game stretch during which the former Kingston Frontenac didn’t have a single point.
“It was really good,” Bradley said about the offensive output from different players and the powerplay. “Not just because the team needed it, but also because the guys who scored them deserved those. They work hard and it’s nice for them to get something to show for it. On the first two especially, they were doing a great job of getting pucks to the net and having a little bit more desperation. Then, on the third one, it was more about moving the puck quickly to open up seams.”
Bradley further noted that the powerplay going three-for-eight was a turning point in the game.
“Getting those powerplays and capitalizing on them definitely changed things. We needed those for sure. Five-on-five, we weren’t making a ton happen all game long and I don’t think that changed too much. But when we got our first powerplay goal, it seemed to wake us up a bit and every goal after that seemed to wake us up more and more.”
The Cyclones wouldn’t be denied, however, and just under two minutes later, Listowel got a powerplay marker of their own as Birkett scored his second goal of the game.
Tied at three at the end of regulation, having slayed the demons that were depth scoring and powerplay production, the Lincolns were faced with one final hurdle that had gone largely unconquered all season long – overtime. In the extra frame, an ailing Lincolns squad, down to four defenceman and an injury-riddled forward group, took the Cyclones into deep waters before Jack O’Donnell, who had gone four games without a goal, tucked home the series-clincher at the side of the net to win the Sutherland Cup for Listowel.
According to the head coach, the Lincs, missing their captain, didn’t go down without a strong team-wide fight.
“It was a good team game. Not having Adam (Barkley) obviously was a big loss for us and put our defence under some stress. Then, Jacob (Montesi) getting hurt added to the stress on our guys. It was a tough game for Hayden (Barch) to get thrown into, but I thought as the game went on, he settled in nicely and did a good job for us.”
Less than 24 hours after the bitter disappointment of the game five loss, Bradley noted the tough nature of the team’s defeat but recognized the plentiful positive takeaways of the 2023-24 campaign.
“It’s fun but it’s a grind at the same time. We haven’t really had time to reflect yet. We’ve got exit meetings (this past Monday). But on the surface, it seems like a pretty successful season. We played more games than anybody in our league this year with 74 over the regular season and playoffs combined and you don’t do that unless you have a successful season, whether you win the last game or not. I’m sure some people believed other teams would beat us, but I think we proved that our belief in ourselves was right.
“Every year for the last three years, we’ve continued to move in the right direction. Year after year after year, we’ve made progress. So, if that trend continues, then we’ll have even more of a successful season next year, but we understand what it takes to get there now and we understand, from firsthand experience of witnessing Listowel, what it takes to win it.”
Bradley also was appreciative of the Lincolns fans who, in his eyes, gave the players lifelong memories with their unwavering and electric support.
“It’s a great experience for the players. Kids dream about playing in the NHL or the OHL and when you get to those points, you’re able to experience the big crowds and the fandom that comes with it. I’m sure when a Maddox Callens or a Chase MacQueen-Spence or a Noah VandenBrink comes here, they may not expect the passion and the energy that St. Marys brought to Junior B hockey.
“The experience that the fans were able to bring to the players, I think that’s what’s important to the players and it’s stuff that they’ll remember forever,” added Bradley. “They’ll remember their names being chanted. They’ll remember signing autographs for kids. They’re going to remember being really loved for the entertainment they brought to the fans. It’s special for 16- to 20-year-olds to be able to bring that type of joy to a community. I think it’s all about the experience for the players. They’re the ones that bleed, sweat and get hurt for this team. They deserve all the greatest experiences, and the community and the fans gave them that.”

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