Another Brick In The Wall: History Is Made! – by C. Scott Holland
I have witnessed many oddities and historic games during the last quarter century plus of following junior hockey. Yet some things I had never witnessed. One of those was the new three-on-three, second overtime scenario which replaces the shootout this season. Guess I can now sing the old Monkees’ song “I’m A Believer” – this format should have been introduced years ago. It brings excitement and in the game I saw had enough great plays to fill a highlight reel!
Of course, the game I’m talking about was the London at Leamington one on Thursday, October 1st. Two seemingly powerhouse teams skated to a scoreless draw after 60 minutes of play. Now that in itself was something remarkable. But to have them extend that scoreless streak to a full 5 minutes four-on-four OT and then go another five minutes of three-on-on-three action made for some nail-biting, fan cheering and many fantastic plays. The crowd of 955 people in the Highbury Canco arena certainly may not have realized they were witnessing history being made!
My career of covering hockey has included: watching the highest scoring game in Western Jr. B history, a penalty-free contest, two championship games, a playoff brawl that involved fans and players and countless other oddities along the way but a 2OT scoreless tied game was one thing I was least expecting.
For Leamington Flyers goalie Tyler Wall it was first appearance at home and his stats now have him as being the GOJHL’s second best goaltender holding a 3-0-1-0 record and an astonishing 1.20 gaa. He made 31 saves along the way to earn the scoreless tie. London counterpart Connor Hughes faced enough rubber to pave the 401 lightly. Hughes halted 48 shots during the 70 minute stint and at numerous times made some gigantic plays.
Both teams had powerplay chances and were held off the scoresheet by the defenses. London’s best opportunities came on a shot in the second frame which Wall stooped and the puck lay just on the red line but did not go over it. During a two-man powerplay advantage just past the five- minute mark of the third, London was thwarted by the stingy Flyers’ defensive work where for about 70 seconds Leamington kept the Nats off stride and often cleared the zone while Wall snared anything that came his way.
Nationals’ netminder Hughes was busy halting the pucks that headed his way. In the second frame the Flyers blitzed 16 shots at him and then in the second OT, Hughes stood on his head stopping a short flurry of Flyers’ snap shots, several of which missed going in by inches.
Much of the game was a high-energy back-and-forth affair with plenty of hard hitting along the walls, digging in the corners and trying to create plays which would lead to that all-elusive goal.
Tempers flared a bit at 5:03 of the third after Mitchell Amante was whistled for a slashing call while trying to bang the puck off a London player’s stick. With London still having puck position, it became a delayed penalty situation and when the Nats stormed the Flyers’ net there was some pushing and shoving and a couple of knuckle pies traded. Sidelined along with Amante were Flyers Jacob McGhee and Cale Allen as well as London’s Tanner Ferreira and Matt Bean.
In the first five minute, four-on-four OT London looked strong taking three shots at Wall and limited the Flyers to just one good scoring chance.
In the exciting three-on-three second OT, It was the Flyers who appeared to dominate and get quality chances as they hammered seven shots at Hughes. Several of those chances came rapid fire and each time they were turned aside.
With a 0-0 draw after 70 minutes both teams collected a point for the tie and now go into the history books as having played the first-ever scoreless draw in the Western Conference as well as being their first ever tied game between two West teams. As well it will go in the record books as being the first 2OT tied games and contests for both teams.
Not really a surprising for Leamington they had battled Strathroy to a 0-0 regulation draw in and then lost 1-0 in OT on Jan. 23, 2011 at Strathroy and London has turned in two scoreless regulation ties. The first vs Chatham on Feb. 4, 1980 (there was no overtime period then), and on Oct. 14, 2000 they skated to a 0-0 draw with Sarnia but lost 1-0 in OT.
The last tied game at home for Leamington was on Feb. 5, 1998 when they knotted the Tecumseh Chiefs 2-2. The last tied road game for the London Nationals was on Jan. 31, 1997 against the St. Marys Lincolns.
At the Showcase Weekend at the Western Fair in September to kickoff the 2015-16 GOJHL season the Golden Horseshoe Thorold Blackhawks and the Western Conference Strathroy Rockets played to a double overtime scoreless draw.
(photo credit: Sue Reeve, London Free Press/QMI Agency, January 12, 2011)