Pat Payton. Sports editor
It’s obviously not the start St. Marys Lincolns were looking for.
Heading into the Western Conference regular schedule with a veteran team and 14 returnees, some hockey people have predicted that Lincs will contend for the Western Conference title this season.
But based on their first two games this past weekend, it’s evident that Lincolns have work to do . . . a lot of work.
Undisciplined penalties proved costly in both home games as Lincs gave up a combined five powerplays goals in a 5-4 loss to Leamington Flyers Friday night and a 5-1 defeat at the hands of London Nationals Sunday afternoon.
Three goals by veteran centre Noah Schwartz led the defending champion Nats (1-1) to a convincing win Sunday in front of about 250 fans at the Pyramid Rec. Centre.
“I was actually more pleased with the effort from the kids in today’s game,” Lincolns’ coach Jamie Baker said Sunday. “But we definitely have to find a way to score more than one goal. Giving up five goals in a game makes it tough to win.
“We cut our shots against down. Thirty is excellent and under 35 is good. I thought we did a good job that way.
“Again, we got a good effort from the kids, but I don’t know if there was a consistent effort from everybody. It’s something we have to work on. It’s early in the season, and we have things we need to work on in practice. We want to work on our powerplay and keep reviewing our defensive-zone coverage, which I thought was pretty good today,” he added.
St. Marys’ offence missed captain Sean Consitt, who served a one-game suspension. Consitt has led Lincs in scoring the past two seasons.
Coach upset with penalties
On Friday night at the PRC, coach Baker was upset with the number of undisciplined penalties Lincolns picked up in their home opener in front of about 275 spectators.
Leamington scored three powerplay goals in the feisty, penalty-filled affair. The two teams combined for 101 minutes in the sin bin.
“It’s hard to get in sync when you’re in the box most of the game,” Baker said tersely. “Too many selfish penalties on our part . . . we weren’t being smart.
“Yes, it’s an aggressive game, but we took stupid penalties tonight. Little shots after the whistle and the (four-minute) spear late in the game. Those are things you just can’t be doing. There were calls we deserved.
“We just have to learn from it and move on,” he added.
The win improved Flyers’ record to 2-0, tops in the division after the first weekend.
Upcoming: This coming weekend, Lincolns host Sarnia Legionnaires on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.
On Sunday, Lincs are off to Forest for their first road game. Game time against Lambton Shores Predators is 8 p.m.
NATIONALS 5 – LINCOLNS 1
(Sunday, Sept. 9 in St. Marys)
The game: Nationals have 12 returnees, and they displayed good team speed, puck control and skill in a convincing win over the Lincolns.
Noah Schwartz, a 20-year-old from Toronto, led the way with three goals, and the shifty centre was easily the best player on the ice.
“Schwartzie is a kid who you never have to worry about his work ethic,” Nats’ coach Kelly Thomson said.
“He battles so hard, he just wills pucks into the net sometimes. We’re really happy with the way he played today.”
Period scores: Nats led 2-1 after the first period; 4-1 after 40 minutes.
Goal scorers: Noah Schwartz clicked for three goals and an assist for London. He now has eight points in two games. Fourth-year veteran Aaron Dartch scored the other two Nationals’ goals.
Calvin Penney replied for St. Marys, closing the gap to 2-1.
Responded well from first loss: Coach Thomson liked the way Nats responded from an opening-game loss to Strathroy Rockets.
“We didn’t have a very good outing last Wednesday,” he said. “Our intensity wasn’t there, and it’s something we worked on in practice. I was a little concerned with a two-day layoff and how we’d react coming into a game like this.
“But the intensity was there today, and I think the boys showed a lot of character with the type of game they brought on the road today.”
Penalty picture: Lincs took 24 of the 43 penalty minutes. Both teams were issued fighting majors, with Lincolns’ Dean Pawlaczyk picking up the instigator and a one-game suspension.
Early in the third period, rookie centre Mike Siddall was given a major for checking-from-behind, and will sit the next two games.
Shots on net: Overall, London out-shot St. Marys 39-31. Veteran Taylor Edwards made 30 stops in a solid outing for the Nationals. Lincolns’ Devin Golets, who also played well, took the loss.
FLYERS 5 – LINCOLNS 4
(Friday, Sept. 7 in St. Marys)
The game: Lincolns opened the scoring with an early powerplay goal, but Flyers grabbed the lead for good with three straight powerplay goals before the end of the first period.
Lincs pulled to within a single goal on three different occasions, but that’s as close as they’d get on this night.
Centre Mike Siddall’s second goal of the night left St. Marys trailing just 5-4, with still over seven minutes to play. However, a four-minute spearing penalty—with just under six minutes to play—hampered Lincolns’ comeback chances.
Period scores: Flyers led 3-1 after the first period; 4-2 after 40 minutes.
Goal scorers: Brett Langlois, David Dalby, Tony Spidalieri, Joe Manchurek and Dakota Olvin scored for Leamington.
Veteran Reid Oliver and Mike Siddall, who had a strong game, each scored twice for St. Marys. Tyson Baker chipped in a pair of assists.
Flyers get tougher: “We’re not a pretty team, so we’re not going to have a lot of pretty games,” Leamington coach Tony Piroski said. “We’re going to stick our noses in a lot more than we have in the past. We have a gritty team and we work hard, and tonight it paid off.
“As a team, we needed to get a little grittier and tougher, and I think we’ve done that.”
Penalty picture: Lincs took 57 penalty minutes, compared to 44 for Leamington. Both sides picked up fighting majors, while Flyers also took a checking-from-behind major.
Five of the nine goals came on powerplays.
Shots on net: Overall, Leamington out-shot St. Marys 41-37, including 18-9 in the first period.
Craig Wood, making his first start for Lincolns since returning from Kingston’s OHL camp, took the loss.