Flyers Take Down Stars In Home and Home Series; Wall Climbing Record Book – by C. Scott Holland
As several scouts from NCAA schools plus numerous OHL scouts kept a keen eye on Thursday night’s game between St. Thomas and Leamington, they, along with 810 fans, were offered a fierce battle between two of the West Conference’s top teams. Most of the scouts present were there to see Leamington rookie goaltender phenom Tyler Wall. Despite the abundance of attention, Wall did not play as steadily as usual but didn’t disappoint either. When the final buzzer sounded Wall was the better netminder having outdueled the Stars’ Dan Black for a 5-3 victory.
Then on the following night at St. Thomas’ TimKin Centre, the Flyers with Wall dueling Black blanked the Stars 4-0.
The win left Wall with a remarkable record of 19-0-0-1 and as Flyers’ staff noted, he is drawing attention from not only the U.S. but all across Canada as well. However, the scouts did manage to see about a couple of Stars players as well.
In the opening frame the St. Thomas came out and rushed the Flyers net much like they did in their previous Leamington meeting, but unlike the previous encounter, they were denied any goal. During much of the first period, the Flyers used puck control to their advantage. At 6:14 the Flyers gained the lead when Zak Parlette fed Thomas Virban whose shot on starter Dan Black was collected by Cale Phibbs who tried his own attempt from Black’s right side. Black turned aside the initial salvo, but Phibbs collected the loose rebound and flicked it past Black.
Minutes later, the Stars knotted the contest. Matt McJannet found Carson Brookshaw at the top of the slot and Brookshaw’s screen shot eluded Wall.
The Flyers jumped back into the lead at 11:26 when Nick Mainella and Phibbs banged away at a loose puck that was around Black. Finally, Scott Florence got a shot off and it bounced past Black.
A change of game plan saw Leamington started dishing out some bodychecks in the second and the Stars didn’t hesitate to give them back in the second frame. The Flyers surged ahead to a 3-1 lead when Derek Elliott converted a rebound by putting it over top of Dan Black who was down on the ice. But a powerplay chance for the Stars revived them. At 7:06 with Leamington’s Scott Florence having served one minute of his minor penalty, Brookshaw and Spencer Hutchinson set up Matt McJannet’s shot which bounced past Wall. Four minutes later on a delayed penalty call, McJannet slipped Jake Reed a pass which he blasted towards the net from just inside the blueline. Somehow the shot made its way through a maze of players and knotted the game.
The contest’s intensity was only heating up at that point. At 17:33 the Flyers mirrored Reed’s tally when defenseman JP Grineau unleashed cannon-like shot after accepting David Storey’s feed from the right. Grineau sent the puck airborne from a spot inside the blueline and it sizzled past Black for a 4-3 Leamington edge.
When the third stanza began, the Flyers reverted to puck control to gain the upper hand. At 4:02 with Mitch Amante hustling through the neutral zone and heading into the Stars’ end, he was spun around and almost knocked off balance by a blatant hook from a Stars’ player. It was such an obvious penalty to everyone watching that when it wasn’t whistled the crowd issued its response via a round of boos and jeers. Flyers’ head coach Tony Piroski was livid and questioned the lack of a call and received a two minute bench minor for his effort. But with Liam Hogan serving the minor, the Flyers decided to inject their own version of justice. JP Grineau hooked a pass onto Mitch Amante’s stick and this time Amante worked his magic as he drove down an open side and drilled the rubber into the back of the net for a 5-3 margin. That was all the Flyers would need and even when St. Thomas lifted Black for an extra man with 3 minutes left in the game, the Flyers offense and defense kept any possible attack at bay.
In the end the Flyers three birthday boys had contributed to the win. All three players – Amante, Wall and Parlette who were born on Jan. 14, but in different years. Amante turned 21, Wall 18 and Parlette 20 and together they made the first game of a home and home stand with St. Thomas a huge celebration.
Friday’s game was as intense as the previous night but the Stars couldn’t put a dent in Tyler Wall’s armour.
Cale Phibbs opened the Flyers’ scoring when he converted a Mitchell Crevatin pass at 2:54.
About the midway mark of the second frame, Phibbs struck for his second marker of the contest by drilling the handiwork of Crevatin and Scott Emerson past Black. Despite having lots of time to get back in the game and nearly matching the Flyers shot for shot, the Stars offensive couldn’t get anything past Wall. At 14:05 of the second, Liam Hogan and Mitch Amante combined passes with Mark Gangnon who upped the lead to 3-0.
The Stars had four powerplay opportunities throughout the match compared to none for the Flyers, but even with the man advantage the Flyers defense stymied the Stars scoring chances. The final nail in the Stars’ coffin was when they lifted Dan Black at 18:14 for an extra-attacker with Flyer penalty leader Zach Guibeault sent to the showers for a major penalty for cross checking. Scott Emerson tabbed an unassisted empty-net goal at 18:23 of the third to seal the win. Black returned to the net for the remainder of the game.
The win improved the Flyers’ winning streak to 11 games. They have won 16 of their last 17 games. The Stars, who have struggled since the loss of Ryan Valentini and Eric Henderson to the OHL, have won just 3 of their last 9 games.
The win improved Wall’s undefeated record to an astounding 20 wins, no losses, no overtime losses and 1 tie, including 4 shutouts. Wall earned a shutout in a scoreless double overtime draw with the London Nationals on October 1, 2015.
Wall becomes only the eighth rookie goalie in West Conference history to win 20 or more games in his rookie season. He is currently tied with Kyle Funkenhauser (Chatham 2004/05) and Mark Seguin (Chatham 1989/90). Next up are Leamington’s record holder Junior Lapointe (1993/94) and London’s Torrin Lauziere (2007/08) who both had 22 victories. The West’s rookie record for wins is 26 by Chatham’s Sean Robertson done in 2000/01. Wall is the only one of the eight to be undefeated and have 20 wins.
(photo credit – Cale Phibbs lines up for a faceoff against the Strathroy Rockets on December 13, 2015 at the WMMC in Strathroy – Colleen Wiendels Photography)
C. Scott Holland is an accomplished author, a former Western Jr. B Hockey League statistician and is recognized as the West Conference’s and GOJHL’s historian. A lifelong resident of Leamington Scott was a journalist for the now defunct Leamington Post for 26 years and currently writes for the Southpoint Sun. Among the books he has authored are: 75 Years: A History of the Leamington and Erie Shores Golf Course; A Century In The Making – History of Heinz Canada 1909-2009; Leamington Flyers 1992/93-2011/12 Platinum Anniversary Special Program; the Western Jr. B Record Book 2003/04 and 2005/05 editions; as well as updates of both the West Conference and GOJHL Record Books. He was been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 27 years and served many years as a board member, statistician, press box announcer, and scorekeeper among other duties. He has been named the West Conference Volunteer of Year and a Windsor-Essex Sportsperson of Year award.