Flyers Blank Lincolns In Series Opener; Wall Sets More Records by C. Scott Holland
Had it not been for St. Marys Lincolns goaltender Emanuel Vella, the Lincs would have suffered a very lopsided defeat. But as it was when the Lincs opened their first round series in Leamington on Thursday night, Vella made some spectacular saves to give his team a chance. However, the Flyers, despite an offense which sputtered during the opening 40 minutes, came to life in the third and won the contest 4-0.
While Vella was doing his part to keep the Lincs within striking distance of the first-place Flyers, Leamington’s defense and rookie sensation Tyler Wall limited St. Marys’ scoring chances. Final shot totals were Leamington 53 St. Marys 11 and with the low number of saves Leamington’s Tyler Wall once again entered the record books.
A rather good crowd of 700 were on hand to witness the Flyers assert puck control and dominate the Lincolns right from the outset.
Throughout much of the game it seemed as if the Leamington arena crew might only have to use the Zamboni on one end of the rink.
The opening frame was tentative for both sides but many fans thought the Flyers could have used some target practice. Although Leamington put 10 shots on net and reaped a single goal, they may have had just as many opportunities to score from within a decent, close range but failed to hit the net. Leamington acquired the lead at 16:24 when Mark Manchurek sent a long pass to Scott Emerson who broke through the Lincolns’ defense and skated on a breakaway on which he deked Vella then backhanded the puck past Vella as he skated to the netminder’s left.
The Lincolns had had one powerplay opportunity early and the Flyers received a four minute drive which spanned the first and second frames but neither side capitalized.
During the second period, Leamington’s offense continued to pummel Vella with shots. They put 22 on the goaltender and only managed to tab one marker. That goal which came at 13:17 was a beauty. Colin Moore and Cale Phibbs moved the puck deftly to Zach Guilbeault who was at the top of the slot and just a few feet inside the blueline. He triggered a blast through a maze of players that clanked off the top of the crossbar and shot downward behind Vella to make it 2-0 Leamington.
The final stanza was the most physical of the game and once again the Flyers reverted to excellent puck movement and passing to keep St. Marys off stride. Both teams took minor penalties which did not affect the score until 8:25 David Storey and Phibbs sent Guilbeault cruising in on Vella. Gilbeault deked Vella and then tucked the puck past him on the netminder’s right side. An interference penalty handed to Ryan Martin about 25 seconds later ended up allowing the Flyers to register their only powerplay goal of the night. Scott Emerson hammered a shot that sailed past Vella for the man advantage marker at 9:12.
Leamington’s defense took total control from that juncture onward and Tyler Wall earns a shutout in his first playoff game – a feat that very few goalies have ever accomplished.
NOTES: Lineup changes for St. Marys had Nick Whitwork and Brandon Glover sitting while Leamington rested Nicolas Mainella, Aaron Langlois and Scott Florence …Game Two of the series is in St. Marys Sat. night (7:30 pm), game three back in Leamington on Sunday (7:10 pm) and game four on Wed. at 7:30 pm; penalties in the game were minimal – Leamington had two minors and St. Marys five minors …The Flyers allowed the Lincolns only 1 shot on net in the opening 20 minutes and only four in the second …Wall set several team and West Conference records in the contest: Fewest Saves in One Period – 1 (previously held by Leamington’s Justin Martin done in the 3rd per. of a Feb. 24, 2002 game vs St. Marys – (both league and Flyers); the Fewest Saves in One Game (both league and Flyers) – 11 previously was 12 by LaSalle’s Connor Lyons in game 1 of the finals vs St. Thomas Stars (Mar. 31, 2010) and that mark also tops Flyers netminder Jure Penko’s team best of 19 done vs Chatham Maroons in game 5 of the second round Mar. 14, 1999. The shutout also is the first at Leamington in a playoff game since Mar. 1, 2015 when Trevor Wheaton blanked the Lambton Shores Predators 5-0 in game one of the first round.