Flyers Take Care of Rival LaSalle Vipers 8-3 – by  C. Scott Holland

It was a typical inter-county matchup between long time rivals the LaSalle Vipers and Leamington Flyers and for a home opener, it may have taken on a bit of extra meaning.

Besides the fact that many of these players are in the same classes and same schools, many have graduated from the same minor hockey programs. Plus there is the fact that it is the first encounter between teammates who are now with the opposition.

A trade just days before the regular season began sent Flyers’ Brett Vorshuk and Broden Meloche to LaSalle in exchange for Maddux Rychel and Dalton Langlois. Only Langlois sat out this contest.

A crowd of 500 was in attendance, and many of them got to grab a free hot dog and soda at the outside, pre-game,  tailgate party before settling in to watch the two teams do battle.

Vipers’ starter James Walker was greeted royally by the Flyers as they planted three goals on him with 8 shots during his nearly nine minute span between the pipes. Dershahn Stewart was called upon to replace Walker for the remainder of the contest.

Throughout the game, the Flyers’ defense and netminding limited any serious LaSalle offensive strikes and when the final buzzer sounded Leamington had upped their record to 3-0 thanks to an 8-3 victory.

Flyers’ captain Zach Guilbeault had the honour of striking first – just 53 seconds into the first frame. Shortly after the three minute mark, Griffin Robinson drilled a low liner into the right corner of the LaSalle cage. At 8:52 Kade McKibbin waltzed to the front of the net and lifted the puck into the top shelf to send Walker to the showers. The Vipers did reap one tally at 17:36 as Frank Zak notched a powerplay goal but the Flyers roared right back at 18:05 when Maddux Rychel and Kenny Styles went on a two-on-one break with Rychel cashing the marker.

While the Flyers appeared hungry and eager and took plenty of good shots in the opener, things were tighter in the second as they applied a slew of 17 shots on Stewart and notched two. Guilbeault collected his second of the game with help from Rychel and Bryce O’Brien. LaSalle’s Tyler Russell potted the second Vipers’ tally to keep them in the game before the Flyers went ahead 6-2. Parker Jacques and Cory Schneider worked a loose puck around the Vipers’ net before Jake Nimmo slotted the sixth goal.

Things became a bit more intense in the third but Leamington never relinquished the lead. At 14:11 Nimmo went in close, deked Stewart and backhanded the seventh Flyers’ marker. Minutes later on a late powerplay drive Brett Vorshuk took Manny Slverio’s feed and tabbed a powerplay goal. Both sides were a bit antsy in the end and took some unnecessary penalties. The Flyers capped their night when Nathan Skulley pumped a last minute powerplay goal.

While there is lots of work to be done by both teams, it is obvious that both have some highly talented players and both squads should develop into much stronger entities within the next few months.

NOTES: Many people had expected Leamington to field a strong team again, but the early and obvious strengths shown by this season’s group is so overwhelming that they should almost be favourites to win the West. Two of the other franchises expected to be near the top of the heat – LaSalle and London – have encountered some early defensive and goaltending problems as well as having some vets not stepping up their game. No-one is writing these two teams off yet as there is a great deal of time ahead to make adjustments and changes, some of which will come with more practice. Meanwhile the new Komoka team has given notice that they are already improving and are becoming highly competitive as they topped Sarnia 3-2 at the Barn on Brock Street.

Up next for the Flyers is a visit to Sarnia on Sat. Sept. 16 at 7:10 pm then they will face the London Nationals at home next Thursday (Sept. 21).

  1. 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 writes occasional articles for the Southpoint Sun and the Strathroy Age Dispatch. 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, Mid-West and Golden Horseshoe Conference and GOJHL Record Books and Playoff Record Books  He has been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 28 years and has served many years as a board member, statistician,in the press box as an announcer, and scorekeeper among other duties. He has been named the West Conference Volunteer of Year and a Windsor-Essex Sportsperson of Year award. He resides in Leamington. 

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