Flyers Double Rockets 4-2 – by C. Scott Holland
Had the Strathroy Rockets had any real offensive teeth, they would have chewed up the Leamington Flyers on a night when the Flyers were without several of their top offensive players (Mitch Amante – cut leg, Cale Phibbs – concussion). Instead the Flyers’ strong defensive work limited the Rockets’ opportunities and Leamington won the contest 4-2 in front of 687 fans.
The opening frame featured some good puck control by the Flyers as they outshot Strathroy 17-7 but only managed one tally. Strathroy goalie Dane Gubbels was all that kept the team from being blown out of the water. The one puck which eluded Gubbels came on a play where the Rockets’ defense looked as though they had pulled off a Houdini act. Luke Sanko initiated the play. Derek Elliott outraced the Rocket defense to the corner and made a nice feed from the corner off to Gubbels’ right directly to Liam Hogan in the slot. Hogan was completely unguarded. He made a slick deke and slipped the puck past the Strathroy netminder.
In the second frame there was a time where both teams dug in and played some gritty hockey. Much of the play was along the boards and corners during the first 10 minutes. But the Flyers dominated when at 10:40 Matthew Opblinger hooked a pass with Sanko who cranked a long feed straight up the middle and found Elliott. Elliott raced in on Gubbels on a breakaway and drilled the second Flyers’ marker. At that juncture the roughness and intensity both escalated. The Rockets’ Codey McRoberts was assessed a two minute minor for boarding plus a 10 minute misconduct at 11:40 and the Flyers wasted little time in upping their lead to 3-0. Joe Urbanic and Aaron Langlois laid the groundwork for Zach Guilbeault as he buried Urbanic’s rebound.
After a couple of minor sticks calls on both sides, Strathroy’s Jeff Clarke crosschecked Flyers forward Scott Emerson and Emerson responded by trying to initiate a fight at 18:58. When things were sorted out Emerson was tagged with an aggressor, instigator and a five minute fighting penalty compared to Clarke’s two minute minor.
With Leamington ahead comfortably, the Rockets had a seven minute powerplay. But the Flyers simply denied the Rockets any serious zone penetration or dangerous shots during the spell and Strathroy entered the final stanza down 3-0.
However, Leamington picked up right where the left off. At 7:35 Flyers’ rookie Mark Gangnon took advantage of more poor Rocket defensive zone coverage and blasted a screen shot from the high slot that handcuffed Gubbels and made it a 4-0 game. From that point on, the Rockets doubled their effort and were finally rewarded when Nick Griffin’s chip pass along the right boards to Max Ewart sprung the speedster. His wrist shot from long range cleanly beat Flyers’ starter Michael Barrett. Nearly four minutes later Ewart set up Shane Bulitka who split the Flyer defense and made it a 4-2 game. The goal extended the underager’s point streak to nine games.
The Rockets lifted Gubbels for an extra attacker in the final minute but it was to no avail as the Flyers’ defense kept the puck and Rockets from entering the zone.
NOTES: Strathroy made a last minute change to their lineup and inserted Matthew Stevens when Jeff Williams became ill prior to warmups with a migraine and blurred vision…With Mitchell Crevatin, Mitch Amante and Cale Phibbs out due to injury, the Flyers called upon APM Brayden Klemens to suit up. Klemens, who wore #24, played steadily throughout the contest …The victory was the Flyers’ 31st of the season and the team now has 13 games remaining. Their next four contests are against top teams. Two at home vs Chatham and another set of home and away vs London …Although playoff dates have not been set yet, first round, second and finals ticket prices have been set and a package is available which will include 12 home games. Rates are for adults, seniors and children and the 12 game package deal can be ordered (see back of lineup sheet.)