Flyers Eliminate Maroons – by C. Scott Holland
Prior to game six of the West Conference second-round series between first place Leamington and fourth place Chatham, many fans thought the Maroons would start Parker Butler. Instead vet Brendan Johnston got the nod and kept his team in it.
But thanks mainly to two goals during a nearly 7 minute powerplay stretch in the second frame, the Leamington Flyers were able to take a 4-1 lead then hang on to win the contest 4-2 and eliminate the Maroons from post-season play as they won the series 4-2.
As it was in the last game at Chatham Memorial Arena, special teams were a big factor. Leamington went three for six on the powerplay while Chatham was two for eight. A five minute major penalty and a two minute minor at the tail end of the major allowed Leamington to tab two extra-man goals and ultimately that was all the Flyers needed to end the Maroons’ season. The Flyers won all three games played in Chatham in the six-game series.
Both teams play hard throughout the game which was witnessed by 2,002 fans.
It took nearly 12 minutes before Chatham broke the scoreless battle while Flyer Aaron Langlois was serving a slashing penalty. Gus Ford hooked a pass to Mark Fratarcangeli fown the left wing who beat Leamington starter Tyler Wall with a deft shot up over Wall’s left shoulder and that powerplay tally gave Chatham a 1-0 lead. However, the Flyers cranked up their motors and at 14:16 Luke Sanko and Mitch Amante set up Mark Gangnon whose blast from near the top of the faceoff circle to Johnston’s right through traffic evened the score with a Flyers’ powerplay marker. Johnston didn’t move on the play.
The lone even strength goal of the game came at 18:02 when Leamington’s Jacob McGhee launched a wrist shot from the sideboards near the Maroon’s bench from a Mark Gangnon feed which baffled Johnston and gave the Flyers a 2-1 edge heading in the second.
The play of the game may well have been Maroons’ forward Austin Thompson taking a five minute head-check penalty plus a game misconduct at 7:25 of the second. Johnston did well to keep the Flyers from scoring in the first two minutes of the major but at 9:52 JP Grineau and Scott Emerson combined with Matthew Opblinger whose shot eluded Johnston for a powerplay tally and a 3-1 lead. Opblinger’s goal came at the end of an extended series in the Maroon’s zone. The Flyers were completely exhausted and Opblinger’s shot from well out on the Maroon net somehow found its way past Johnston. Opblinger was likely just looking for a whistle and a stoppage of play and instead tallied a huge goal. With the major powerplay still intact Mark Fratarcangeli compounded the Maroons’ penalty-kill when he took a two minute minor for highsticking at 13:01. That gave the Flyers a brief five-on-three situation and with just 3 seconds remaining with the two-man advantage, Opblinger cashed in with his second powerplay goal of the game with another seeing-eye shot from well out. Mitch Amante laid the groundwork for Opblinger’s second marker and the Flyers suddenly had a 4-1 lead. Chatham had two more opportunities to draw closer with powerplay chances in the frame but were denied by Wall and his defensive corps.
The Flyers took two penalties simultaneously at 6:31 of the third thus gving Chatham a glorious five-on-three chance.
But it took the Maroons well over a minute to score a powerplay goal and cut the lead to 4-2. The Flyers killed the penalty and one other later in the third. The Maroons had many good scoring chances but let the opportunities slip away or had Wall and the Flyers’ defense stop them. They also missed a couple of glaring empty nets when an uncooperative puck hopped over the Maroon sticks.
With about 90 seconds remaining in the game they looked to pull Johnston for an extra-attacker but couldn’t and then vet Gus Ford took a slashing penalty to effectively kill any man-advantage. Chatham did lift Johnston in the last minute but it was to no avail as the Flyers simply controlled the play and hung on to double the Maroons 4-2.
In the end Wall earned the victory by stopping 33 of 35 shots he faced while Johnston halted 29 of 33.
For the Maroons it means the end of the Jr. B careers of 9 players: Parker Butler, Conner McKinnon, Ryan Fraser, Gus Ford, Chris Corigan, Mark Fratarcangeli, Ian Faubert, and Michael Levesque. Congratulations to all of the and best wishes in their future endeavors. Meanwhile, the Leamington Flyers will be in their third straight final and have a chance to three-peat. They now will face the London Nationals with game one most likely starting on Thurs. Mar. 31 at the Highbury Canco Arena in Leamington. The Western Conference final schedule will be released shortly.