Showdown Ends With Leamington Conquering Stars 8-1 – by C. Scott Holland

What was supposed to be a hard-fought contest between the West Conference’s top two teams turned into a one-sided rout as the Leamington Flyers handed the St. Thomas Stars an 8-1 stinging defeat in front of 748 fans who had gathered for Pink On The Rink night in honour of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

The Flyers helped the celebration by donning special pink jerseys and throughout the game tables with baked good and other items were available for spectators to purchase to help the cause.

The game was the first encounter between the two at the Highbury Canco Arena and the rink’s large, Olympic-sized dimensions certainly affected some of the Stars’ play.

Both teams had new faces in their respective lineups. For the Stars they had newcomers Eric Henderson who played for Leamington last season, plus Ethan Nother while the Flyers had defenseman Brendan McGhee who was released by LaSalle earlier in the week.

St. Thomas came out of the gate with plenty of energy and shocked the Flyers from the opening faceoff as Eric Henderson and Ryan Valentini drove into the Flyers’ end and made the first scoring attempt. The puck was stopped by Flyers’ netminder Micahel Barrett but the rebound bounced onto Andrew Chambers’ stick and Chambers wasted no time in driving it into the net just 17 seconds into the game. That goal seemed like a good omen for St. Thomas but ended up being the only tally they would get in a game during which they would struggle to generate scoring chances and goals.

The Flyers regrouped immediately after that quick goal and at 7:29 of the first, after a short bit of time pressing, Scott Emersona and Scott Florence hooked up with rookie scoring sensation Mark Gangnon who snapped a shot that zipped past Stars’ goalie Dan Black to make it a tied game.

The remainder of the frame featured lots of back and forth action and by its conclusion the Flyers were beginning to dominate the Stars outshooting them 11-6.

From the outset of the second, St. Thomas played like a totally different team. The Flyers hemmed St. Thomas into their own zone during a vast portion of the period and it showed not only on the scoreboard but on the shot clock as well. Although the Stars took three minors in the period, only one was costly – and it was one which may have broke open the tight contest.

With Stars’ Spencer Hutchinson off for slashing at 2:28, Leamington’s powerplay went to work. At 3:07 they were rewarded when captain Jacob McGhee’s pass to Luke Sanko was drilled into the net for a 2-1 Flyers’ lead.

Leamington began rolling from that juncture. At 8:26 Zach Guilbeault snapped a shot from the right faceoff circle which made it 3-1 then Thomas Virban chipped the puck past Dan Black while on the doorstep at 13:50. Down 4-1 Stars’ head coach Darren Kelly replaced Black with the experience of Nikolas Dampier. But Dampier did not fare any better than starter Black. Nicholas Mainella and Joe Urbanic put shots on Dampier before Travis Campbell tabbed the Flyers’ fifth goal.

The Stars were clearly outplayed and outshot in that middle period as Leamington held a 23-6 shot edge.

With the contest all but over at the start of the third, the Stars looked to salvage some pride in the third. It was as even a period of hockey as the opening stanza yet the Stars couldn’t penetrate the Flyers defense long enough to get a good crack at getting the puck past Michael Barrett.

Cale Allen set up one of the game’s nicest goals at 6:50. Joe Urbanic took the pass and skated down the right lane before unleashing a wicked, low liner which sailed past Dampier.

Less than a minute later Cale Allen tangled with Cal Horvat, younger brother of NHLer Bo Horvat, and Horvat won the brief match. Both were handed fighting penalties plus game misconducts but Allen received a gross misconduct for playing without his helmet.

The game’s final two minutes featured two more Flyers’ tallies which were the result of some shoddy Stars’ play. Scott Emerson converted Mitchell Amante’s feed at 18:07 and that tally caused Dampier to hit his goalie stick across the top crossbar in frustration not only at himself, but also because of his teammates’ play.

Mark Gangnon finished the night by netting his second of the game at 19:44.

Powerplays were not a real factor as St. Thomas was blanked in two chances while the Flyers got one on three tries.

Leamington finished with 45 shots on net to St. Thomas’ 24.

These two teams do not meet again until just before Christmas.

The Flyers will play a home-and-home set with Strathroy while the Stars host London on Friday night.

(Photo – Leamington Flyers facebook/twitter)

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