The London Nationals and the Leamington Flyers each staged semi-final upsets and will meet in the GOJHL Western Conference Finals likely starting on Wednesday, March 29 in London.

Chatham (2) vs London (3)

After dropping game one in Chatham, London rebounded with a dominating 7-2 win over the Maroons at the Western Fair in front of 748 fans on Saturday, March 18.  The Nationals only led 1-0 after one period but added three goals in each of the second and third periods to tie the series at 1-1.  The Nationals employed a balanced attack with 7 different goal scorers.  Nolan VandenBoom (2,3) scored both goals for the Maroons who were outshot 42-33.  Special teams were a key for the London win.  They clicked on 3 of 6 powerplay opportunities and added a shorthanded goal to hand the Maroons their first loss of the post season.  Chatham went 1 for 5 with the man advantage.  Harlen VanWynsberghe (1), Isaiah Payne (1), Brandon Glover (2), Max Vinogradov (6), Brenden Trottier (2), Colin Wilson (1) and Connor Schmalz (2) scored for London.  Maroon netminder Brendan Johnston, who has been practically thus far in the playoffs, was pulled after the sixth London goal.  Lucas Patton came on in relief.  Cameron Zanussi earned the win.

The following night in Chatham the Nationals took a 2-1 series lead with a 7-6 overtime win.  Austin Kemp was the overtime hero capitalizing on a powerplay with Noah Bushnell off for a double minor for spearing on Carson Brookshaw assessed at the end of regulation time. The loss was a disappointing one for the Maroons after completing a dramatic comeback to tie the game.  Chatham trailed 3-0 after just 6:16 of play.  London led 4-2 after one period and 5-3 after two periods.  Chatham outscored London 3-1 in the third period to force overtime in front of 1,313 fans.  London outshot Chatham 42-36 and converted 1 of 6 powerplay chances.  Their lone conversion however, was the overtime winner.  Chatham went 2 for 6 with the man advantage.  Adam Sinclair (3,4) scored twice for the Nats while Kemp (5), Ethan Nother (7), Glover (3), Kyle Dawson (2) and Trottier (3) added singles.  Chatham received two goals from Steven Beenackers (1,2) and singles from Jake O’Donnell (1), Teddy McGeen (3), Brendan D’Agostino (3) and Alec Mackenzie (2).  Zanussi and Johnston went the distance for both clubs in goal.  The Maroons lost their leading playoff scorer Kevin Gursoy from a first period fight with Payne.

The Nats took a 3-1 lead in the series in London with an explosive 8-2 win on Wednesday, March 22 in front of 659 fans.  The two teams exchanged first period powerplay goals but a 5-goal second period ripped the game open and the Nationals cruised to the win.  Maroon goaltender Johnston, who took the loss, was pulled after two periods.  Patton came on in relief allowing 2 goals.  Zanussi earned the win.  Glover (4,5) scored twice for London with singles to Kemp (6), Brookshaw (3), VanWynsberghe (2), Quinn Lenihan (1), Whittaker (3) and Micheal Andlauer (4).  McGeen (4) and Bryce Yetman (3) replied for Chatham.  London clicked on 2 of 6 powerplay chances.  Chatham went 1 for 8. Shots favoured London 44-37.

The Nationals closed out the series with another big win dropping the Maroons 6-1 in Chatham the following night in front of 1,100 disappointed fans to take the series 4-1.  It was all downhill for the Maroons after Brookshaw (4) put the Nats up 1-0 just 1:44 into the contest.  London led by period scores of 2-0 and 5-0.  Trailing 2-0 early in the second period the Maroons had an excellent opportunity to get back in the game with a 9-minute powerplay.  Not only did they fail to convert with the man advantage they allowed a shorthanded marker to Kemp (7) and Andlauer (5) tallied 7 seconds after the penalties expired.  Vinogradov (7) and Nother (8) also scored for London.  Kemp (8) added a second goal to lead the Nationals.  Michael Douglas (1) broke Zanussi’s shutout bid at 12:18 of the third period.  London outshot Chatham 36-31.  Patton came in to relieve Johnston after the fifth London goal at 12:31 of the second period.  London went 2 for 7 with the man advantage along with the shorthanded goal.  Chatham was 1 for 6.  Nother leads the Nationals in playoff scoring with 8 goals and 12 assists for 20 points in just 10 games.  London outscored Chatham 28-11 over the last four games.

LaSalle (1) vs Leamington (4)

In the other Western Conference semi-final LaSalle took a 2-1 series lead over Leamington with a 4-2 win in LaSalle on Saturday, March 18 in front of 956 fans.  Special teams were the difference in the game.  The Vipers tallied twice with the man advantage on 6 chances and added an empty net shorthanded marker while the Flyers failed to convert on 5 chances. With the two teams tied at 2-2 in the third period, a Manny Silverio (4) powerplay goal at 7:50 was the game winner.  Liam MacDougall (2), Brett Banwell (1) and Daniel Beaudoin (4) also scored for the Vipers.  Blake Bain (6) and Liam Hogan (3) scored for the Flyers.  Flyer goaltender Noah Hedrick was handed a match penalty for travesty of the game for shooting a puck at Silverio during warm up.  Hedrick will sit out the next two games with a suspension.  Flyer head coach Tony Piroski was handed a one game suspension after disagreeing with a non-call after a Viper collided with Flyer goaltender Connor Meyerink.  Eli Billing earned the win in goal for the Vipers.  LaSalle nipped Leamington 30-29 in shots on goal.

The following night in Leamington with Piroski in the press box and Hedrick sitting in the stands along with 818 fans the Flyers responded with an impressive 7-2 win to tie the series at 2-2.  The Flyers led 2-1 after one period and 3-1 after two periods before outscoring the Vipers 4-1 in the third frame.  Meyerink was solid in goal for the Flyers as Leamington was outshot 42-35.  Neither team converted on the powerplay.  LaSalle had 2 chances while Leamington had three.  Griffin Robinson (3,4,5) paced the Flyer attack with a 3-goal performance. Birthday boy Josh Pope-Ferguson (2,3) had a pair of goals while Hogan (4) and Flyer captain Zach Guilbeault (8) added singles.  Zack Hoffman (2) and MacDougall (3) replied for the Vipers.  With LaSalle trailing 5-2 Viper coach Bill Bowler pulled goaltender Billing with over 3 minutes remaining in regular time for an extra attacker.  The ploy backfired as Hogan netted an empty-net marker.

On Wednesday, March 22 the Flyers took a 3-2 series lead with a 3-2 win at the Vollmer in LaSalle in from of 972 fans.  The Flyers never trailed in the game.  Goals by Pope-Ferguson (4) and Guilbeault (9) just 5:19 into the first period gave Leamington an early lead.  Jack Bowler (2) cut the lead to 2-1 at 14:16 of the second period but Dallas Maurovic (2) restored the Flyers’ 2-goal lead just 3 minutes later.  With time running out for the Vipers and Billing on the bench for an extra attacker, Tyler Russell (3) tallied a proximity powerplay goal but that was as close as LaSalle could get.  Both clubs went 1 for 4 with the man advantage.  Meyerink was a standout in goal for the Flyers.  Leamington was outshot 41-23.

The following night at the Highbury Canco Arena in Leamington the Flyers completed the series win over the top-ranked Vipers with a 6-1 victory to take the series in six games.  The Flyers were cheered-on by 1,135 joyous fans.  The Flyers never trailed in the game leading by period scores of 2-0 and 4-1.  Once again the stellar goaltending of Meyerink and a deadly powerplay led to Leamington’s win.  The Flyers were outshot in all three periods for a 46-32 LaSalle advantage.  Leamington converted 4 of 10 powerplay chances while LaSalle was unsuccessful in 5 attempts.  For the second time in the series Robinson (6,7,8) had a hat trick.  Scott Florence (3), Cale Phibbs (2) and Hogan (5) also scored for the Flyers.  Silverio (5) had the lone LaSalle marker.  Billing took the loss for LaSalle.  Blake Bain had 3 assists for the Flyers while defenseman Jaydon Fetter had 4 assists, all on the powerplay.  Bain leads the Flyers in playoff scoring with 6 goals and 8 assists for 14 points in 12 games.  Meyerink will head into the finals carrying a 5-2 record with a 1.99 GAA and a 94.9 save percentage.

In the Golden Horseshoe Conference the three-time defending Sutherland Cup champion Caledonia Corvairs swept the Ancaster Avalanche 4-0.  They are waiting for the winner of the St. Catharines/Niagara Falls semi-final.  The Falcons and Canucks are tied 2-2.

In the Midwestern Conference the Listowel Cyclones advanced to the finals after sweeping the Waterloo Siskins 4-0.  The Elmira Sugar Kings lead the Kitchener Dutchmen 3-2 in the other semi-final.

(photo – Leamington Flyer goaltender Connor Meyerink – Leamington Flyer facebook)


David Honsberger

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