Flyers Edge Chatham In “Playoff Preview” – by C. Scott Holland

Thursday night’s final regular season meeting between the Chatham Maroons and Leamington Flyers had an electric atmosphere to it making it feel more like an important playoff contest than anything else. It was a close battle throughout and one which had its plentiful share of missed chances by both teams as well as a heaping of intensity which escalated into a couple of fights.

And that’s not to mention the drama during the game’s final minute.

If anything many of the 958 fans in attendance should have gone home with finger nails that had been chewed up.

In a pre-game ceremony, the Flyers honoured their billet families of Lee and Karen Jones (Matthew Opblinger and Michael Barrett), Joe and Rosa Amicarelli (Joe Urbanic) and Ron and Stephanie Sanko (Scott Emerson, and David Storey) plus their two West Conference Players of January – Tyler Wall (goaltender) and Zak Parlette (defense). Wall and Parlette were presented with the awards from Larry Keenan, an OHA board of director.

From the drop of the first puck the contest’s intensity showed immediately. Chatham and Leamington jockeyed for scoring chances and a couple of powerplay opportunities came up empty. The real fireworks began at 12:57 when Maroons’ forward Teddy McGeen, plus Dedo Cato and Leamington’s Colin Moore scuffled along the left boards inside the Chatham zone. Flyers’ defenseman David Storey rushed in to aid his teammate Moore and ended up pummeling McGeen in a fight. McGeen and Storey were both ejected for fighting but Storey was handed a two minute aggressor penalty while Cato and Moore were sidelined with 10 minute misconducts.

A key part of the first period was a late 4-minute spearing call on Leamington’s Aaron Langlois. But it was the Flyers’ defense who killed that penalty without any damage done although Flyers’ starter Tyler Wall did have thanks to give to his two goal posts and crossbar on one Chatham drive.

Leamington nipped Chatham11-9 in shots during the opening frame.

With about three minutes gone in the second stanza, Flyer Cale Phibbs sped down the ice on a breakaway and pinged the puck off a goal post. The game remained 0-0. The goose eggs on the scoreboard were finally broken when at 14:52 Thomas Virban fed Joe Urbanic who unleashed a left lane blast at Maroons’ starter Parker Butler. Butler kicked the shot out but it bounded right onto Derek Elliott’s stick and Elliott pumped it into the top left corner for a 1-0 Leamington lead. But a minute later an innocent play around Wall ended with Ian Faubert slipping the puck to Mark Fratarcangelli who patted it into the right side and once again things were even.

At 17:19, the soup came to a boil as Flyer Zach Gulbeault and Maroons player Michael Levesque met near the benches and engaged in the night’s second heavyweight bout. Both were given the heave-ho to the showers for fighting. Just 30 seconds later Chatham’s Austin Thomspon was sidelined with two minute minors for an unsportsmanlike and a head check plus a 10-minute misconduct. On the subsequent powerplay, the Flyers worked the puck around until a couple of players provided a screen shot for Mitch Amante who targeted the net from the top of the slot. Miitchell Crevatin and Matthew Opblinger laid the groundwork for the powerplay tally.

During the second period, the Flyers controlled the play via puck control, much like they have done all season. Leamington outshot the Maroons 18-4 but clung to a 2-1 lead.

At 2:56 of the third the Flyers finally got a break tanks to their hard work. On a scramble around the Chatham net, Urbanic and Mark Manchurek both tried to get the puck past Butler before Mitch Amante tucked the rubber into the open left side and gave Leamington a 3-1 margin.

The Maroons rallied though on a powerplay when Matthew Opblinger was handed a check-from-behind penalty as well as a roughing call while Maroons’ player Steve Beenackers only took a two minute roughing penalty. Ryan Fraser tabbed the powerplay goal on a defensive lapse when a Flyers’ player tried to take the puck instead of the man. Gus Ford and Devin Panceza collected the assists.

The remainder of the game was gritty with lots of battles along the boards as well as some fine defensive work. Chatham lifted Butler for an extra attacker with 45 seconds left and had the puck deep in the Flyers’ zone but were unable to gain any shots. As the final buzzer sounded Mitch Amante took his man into the left corner boards and the Chatham player fell to the ice. Amante was handed a 5-minute crosschecking penalty at the buzzer. The Chatham player got up on his own power and skated off.

NOTES: The win ensures the Flyers of at least a first-place tie with London and now only need one point to clinch first-place outright …The Flyers’ remaining schedule has them playing at home on Sun. Feb. 21 vs St. Marys at 7 pm. This is the rescheduled game from Thurs. Feb. 11. Then the home finale will be next Thurs. (Feb. 25) vs St. Thomas at 7:10 pm. They have two road games as well – at Lambton on Sat. Feb. 20 at 7:30 pm and at St. Marys on Fri. Feb. 26 …The win leaves Tyler Wall with 25 – just one short of tying the rookie win record. He may get a chance to break that mark too.

(photo credit – Dan Janisse, The Windsor Star)

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