Flyers Stay Focused, Down Legionnaires 5-2- by C Scott Holland 

Entering Sunday afternoon’s GOJHL contest, the Leamington Flyers and Sarnia Legionnaires were both looking for two points. However, each team had a pair of players missing from their lineups and a couple of call-ups to replace them. For Sarnia, Jarret Marks and Ethan Dupont were suspended while Sam McCormick and Joel Pavey were sidelined. Leamington had Zach Guilbeault and Jaydon Fetter out serving the second game of their two-game suspensions. As well the Flyers were without Blake Johnson and Kade McKibbin. Replacing them were Josh Vale and Joe Ferrera (Sarnia) plus Sylvano Valente and Riley Meyerink (Leamington).

If having some APJs wasn’t bad enough, the game’s complexion took several twists. In the past Sarnia and Leamington have played some close contests however this one was not only close but evolved into an extremely heated one as well. It was more a reminder of old time hockey to the 938 fans in attendance for Domino’s Free Slice of Pizza Day.

The opening stanza featured one penalty that was bestowed upon Sarnia’s Ben Schoch at 12:14. The hometown Flyers spent little time in converting on the opportunity. Dylan Weston tried to bang the puck past Sarnia starter Will Barber before Cody Schneider slotted the rebound at 13:48. Sarnia would not be denied though as Matt Stoia rifled a shot past Flyers’ netminder Noah Hedrick nearly two minutes later. With less than half a minute left in the first period, Blake Bain sent Griffin Robinson down the right lane and Robinson triggered a pass in front of Barber that Maddux Rychel slickly tapped in to make it 2-1.

Leamington outshot Sarnia 11-7 n the back-and-forth and fairly even opening period.

If there was a critical juncture in this contest it occurred less than one minute into the second. After Leamington had had two shots on Barber, Sarnia went deep into the Flyers zone and the puck came out of one of the corners to the front of the net. The Legionnaires’ Jon Sanderson looked like a car speeding down a mountainside with no brakes. He barreled towards the net and like a freight train bowled Flyer goaltender Hedrick over. Hedrick landed hard on his back and was attended to by the Flyers’ team doctor while the refs conferred about what to assess Sanderson. Sanderson was handed a five minute charging penalty plus a game misconduct. Hedrick was helped up and taken off the ice whereupon back-up Connor Meyerink entered the game and remained between the posts for the remainder of the contest. This incident occurred 47 seconds into the frame and from that point onward animosity was at a high pitch. On the subsequent major powerplay Leamington’s Maddux Rychel ripped Josh Pope-Fergusson’s feed from the slot to make it 3-1. But the Flyerrs’ Andrew Thoms cut the powerplay short with a minor penalty. At 7:20 the Legionnaires inched their way closer when Brock Perry blasted a screen shot past Meyerink. Undaunted by the closeness of the contest, the Flyers showed some dazzle when Jake Nimmo and Rory DiNiro led a three-on-one breakaway that ended with Josh Pope-Ferguson burying the puck past Barber.

Once again the Flyers outshot the Legionnaires – this time it was 18-6.

More fireworks were in store for the large crowd in the third. Leamington upped their lead to 5-2 when Bain and Thoms set up Griffin Robinson’s bullet that handcuffed Barber at 2:45. With Bain serving a slashing penalty and Sarnia pressing, Joey Zappa was saddled with a goaltender interference call but that was when things nearly erupted into an all-out war. Sarnia’s Brock Perry squared off with Bryce O’Brien and Colton O’Brien wanted to fight as well. When the smoke cleared Sarnia’s Brock Perry was given a minor plus a major and game misconduct for fighting. Leamington’s Bryce O’Brien and Colton O’Brien both received five-minute fighting majors and game misconducts. On top of those Bryce picked up minors for aggressor and instigating while Colton was given another major for second fight in the same stoppage of play. The mayhem happened at 7:33 and afterwards things stayed calm although a bit later Alec DeKoning and Josh Pope-Ferguson served co-incidental crosschecking minors.

From that point, Leamington’s defense stymied Sarnia’s offensive thrusts. Throughout the game the Flyers issued some good bodychecks and kept Sarnia’s chances minimal. Shot totals in the third were 10 for Sarnia and 8 for Leamington -Leaington outshot the Legionnaires 38 to 25.

NOTES:  The Leamington Flyers wish to thank Domino’s Canada CEO Mike Schlater and wife Lilibeth for their immense support within the Leamington community and their awesome generosity for supplying pizzas to everyone who attended the two off night games (Sun. Nov. 5 and Sun. Dec. 10) …The hottest Flyer in the last 10 games has been Maddux Rychel (3 g., 9 a.) 12 points; Josh Pope-Ferguson has scored five times in that span while Dylan Weston and Cody Schneider have four goals and an equal number of goals apiece. Preston Corp had three goals and four helpers …There was no word on the extent or nature of any injuries Noah Hedrick might have suffered …The Flyers have four games left before the Christmas break. Two of those games are on the road – this Wed. in London and Sat.  Dec. 16th in Komoka. At home, they will face Chatham on Thurs. Dec. 14 and St. Marys on Dec. 21st …A reminder to all Flyers’ fans that the Flyers will hold a Skate With The Flyers on Tues Dec. 20th from 7 pm to 8:30 pm. at the Highbury Canco Arena. All fans, family, and friends are welcome.

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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