Nats Handle Pesky Flyers 5-3 – by C. Scott Holland
The 2016/17 season is young but already it appears as though one team has gotten the most of their players. That team is the London Nationals who are currently ahead of the pack in the West Conference. On Thursday, September 22 they met their rivals the Leamington Flyers in a game at Leamington. Though the Nats soared out in front and looked to be invincible at times, the Flyers showed them that they will remain competitive and perhaps be a pesky team. About 1,400 fans were in attendance on “Pizza Night” as Domino’s Pizza Canada supplied a free slice of pizza. Over 300 pizzas were delivered and consumed. The Nats held on to win the contest 5-3.
Leamington outshot London 28-23 and both teams had one powerplay goal. Leamington had seven powerplay chances while London had six.
For the Nats it was the second contest played in a 24-hour span. They had spanked the Strathroy Rockets at home on Wednesday night 6-1 and threatened to do the same to Leamington after 40 minutes of play as they took a commanding 5-1 lead into the final frame, but the Flyers came out with a renewed energy and conviction in the third and closed the gap to 5-3. However, the Nats made that score stand up until the final buzzer rang.
With a large number of rookie players on both teams, it was the vets on both sides who made the game what it was.
Flyers starting goalie Connor Meyerink was stung by his own errors and those of his defense. The opening goal came at 5:11 of the first when a Flyer defenseman stumbled to the ice while carrying the puck out of his own zone. London quickly pounced on it and an opportunistic Max Vinogradov unleashed a bullet shot to the top corner. A few minutes later (7:31) the Nats put two shots on Meyerink which were halted but a third rebound was shovelled into the net by Ryan Hopkins. Leamington outshot the Nats 11-8 in the frame and London made their salvos definitely count.
The roof caved in for the Flyers in the middle frame. It began early when Brenden Trottier whisked the puck through Meyerink’s five-hole while standing on the doorstep. But the Flyers did manage to put a dent in any shutout bid. Mark Gangnon had served a too many men penalty and shortly after returning to the ice he zoomed into the Nats’ end and flung the puck past London starter Zack Weir to cut the lead to 3-1.
But London wasn’t finished yet. At the game’s midway juncture Richard Whittaker and Ryan Brown went on a two-on-one break. Brown stuffed a nifty backhanded in from near the right post. The margin was upped to 5-1 when Vinogradov tabbed his second tally of the game during a powerplay scramble around the Flyers’ goalmouth.
The final stanza was as intense as any can be. Both teams played physically and penalties came often. Five of London’s eight penalties came in the period while Leamington took six of their ten. Things got started 90 seconds into the action when Nats’ forward Nathan Gomes was assessed a five minute kneeing penalty and a game misconduct on the Flyers Cale Phibbs. Leamington’s Jaydon Fetter and London’s Austin Kemp were simultaneously sidelined with roughing minors. At 3:10 Richard Whittaker was handed a highsticking call and with the two-man advantage Flyer Mark Gangnon waited patiently while a Nats’ d-man went down to block his shot then ripped the puck up past Weir for a powerplay goal. Gangnon seemed to be everywhere during the game. He had a head-check penalty and 10-minute misconduct, then served a minor for too many men, and another for interference early in the third. After getting back on the ice he planted the powerplay tally. At 11:27 he completed his night during a two-on-one shorthanded situation when he took Connor Morrison’s pass and backhanded it into the net for his hattrick goal. Leamington applied pressure the rest of the way but couldn’t inch any closer and the final read 5-3 for London.
(photo credit – Leamington Flyers facebook)