Chatham Holds Lucky Four-Leaf Clover Edge Flyers In OT – by C. Scott Holland
The opening contest of the semi-final series between the Leamington Flyers and Chatham Maroons certainly had enough strangeness to it. At times fans must have felt like they were watching or were a part of a circus and that is without mentioning the drama, tension and nail-biting.
The Leamington Flyers did not play as solidly as expected and goaltender Tyler Wall looked anything like his usual steady self. Nor did the Flyers’ offense or defense. Whether it was putting the cart before the horse, the long layoff or maybe lack of a four-leaf clover the hometown Flyers’ first period was not the same brand of hockey they have played all season. Errant passes, some unusual bounces and an evident hunger in the Chatham Maroons combined to spell trouble in the early minutes of this match.
It took the Maroons only 27 seconds to take a chink out of the Flyers’ defense after a couple hard hits delivered by the Flyers. Austin Thompson and Steven Beenackers moved into the Flyers’ zone on a possible two-on-one break. Beenackers right wing shot baffled Wall and it was 1-0 Chatham. Things did not get much better for the Flyers as Mitch Amante took a slashing penalty and at 2:20 Brendan Johnston and Ryan Fraser hooked passes to Gus Ford whose rising blast found the upper left corner. For most of the opening five minutes penalties plagued the Flyers. At 6:39 the Maroons struck again as Blair Derynck’s drive from the slot found the back of the Leamington net too. The Flyers finally got on the scoreboard at 14:37 when David Storey and Liam Hogan set up Mark Gangnon’s top-of-the-slot bullet which beat Johnson. Despite the Flyers getting back in the game, they surrendered a fourth Maroons’ tally when Dede Cato’s pass was taken by Mark Fratarcangelli deep into the zone where he put a shot on Wall but the rebound bounced right back out to Fratarcangelli who was on his knees and slapped it past Wall.
The Maroons outshot and had outhustled the Flyers for 20 minutes and led 4-1.
With Cato sidelined for tripping three minutes into the middle stanza, Flyers’ Mark Manchurek and Gangnon hooked up with JP Grineau whose cannon shot from the top of the slot wove through the maze of bodies and past Johnson to make it a 4-2 contest. The game’s intensity had ramped up and the momentum switched from the Flyers scrambling in the opening frame to the Maroons trying to compose themselves in the second. But after a number of penalties on both sides, the Maroons’ Ross Krieger and Thompson set up Gus Ford’s screen shot which found the back of the Flyers’ net. Leamington did not inch any closer during the remainder of the frame.
The Flyers came out in the third looking like a completely different team. They asserted puck control and applied immense pressure to Chatham. At 5:49 Scott Florence and Mitch Amante worked the puck from behind the net and fed Mark Manchurek who rifled a backhand past Johnson to make it a 5-3 contest. Both squads played with renewed energy until 12:05 Derek Elliott’s rebound was plucked by Grineau and whisked into the Chatham net to narrow it to 5-4. Chatham defenseman Ryan Fraser was handed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty minor penalty at 15:50 and on the subsequent powerplay the Flyers wasted little time in scoring.
Grineau initiated a slick passing play with Amante who, in turn, fed Liam Hogan who deposited the powerplay and game-tying tally. It was a gorgeous goal.
The final three minutes of the contest provided golden opportunities for both sides to win but neither side had found the lucky horseshoe yet.
In the first overtime, Maroons’ forward Gus Ford went down the right lane and unleashed a volley on which Tyler Wall hardly flinched until after it had zipped past him. It was a tough loss for the Flyers and may give the Maroons some slight momentum but this series is far from over and at the rate it has started it may go the seven game limit.
Game 2 Sun. Mar. at Chatham 7 pm
Game 3 Tues. Mar. at Leamington 7:10 pm
Game 4 Wed. Mar. at Chatham 7 pm
Game 5 Thurs. Mar. at Leamington 7:10 pm (if needed)
Game 6 Sun. Mar. at Chatham 7 pm (if needed)
Game 7 Mon. Mar. at Leamington 7:10 pm (if needed)
(photo credit – buckandluck.com)
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 the 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 winner. He resides in Leamington.