Flyers Play Santa Claus Treat Fans to 6-2 Win Over Maroons; Piroski Gets 250th Career Win  – by C. Scott Holland

Entering Thursday night’s contest the Leamington Flyers had been in a bit of a scoring slump and had been blanked the previous evening 2-0 by the London Nationals. As head coach Tony Piroski admitted on Wednesday the Flyers had chances and lately have had missed plenty of “golden opportunities.”

That situation was rectified Thursday when the Chatham Maroons visited the Highbury Canco arena. Maroons’ head coach Ron Horvat was behind the bench for his 400th career game as a head coach in Jr. B. The last 47 of those contests have been with the Maroons who did not look as though they were even there for the opening  period on Thursday. Leamington jumped all over starter Ryan Wagner before shuffling in a couple on back-up John Massara. By the time the first 20 minutes were finished Leamington had an insurmountable 5-1 lead.

For Flyers fans who have suffered through the scoring drought along with the team, it was like Santa Claus had given them an early present. But for head coach Tony Piroski it was an “unforeseen present.” The victory was the 250th of his Jr. B career.

Despite the fact that the Maroons struck first on the opening shot of the match, the Flyers regrouped and rebounded well. At 1:39 Jake O’Donnell blistered a high shot from the right lane which sailed over Leamington starter Connor Meyerink’s glove fr a 1-0 edge. However, the Flyers were about to get warmed up. Dylan Weston set up Dalton Langlois who tried a shot in close before Cody Schneider slipped in behind the Maroon defense to beat Ryan Wagner with a slick backhand at 6:08. Only seconds later Leamington grabbed a 2-1 lead as Riley Meyerink fed Nathan Skulley from behind the Maroons’ net and Skulley cannoned a shot from the slot which eluded Wagner. At that point of the contest there had been only one save made by both netminders and it belonged to Leamington. Wagner would stop four shots before Maddux Rychel shuffled a pass from the left lane to Blake Bain who was anchored by the left post. Bain easily one-timed it into the Maroons net and it was the end of Wagner’s night.

Maroons’ replacement John Massara did not fare much better at the outset. At 15:10 Rory DiNiro who was playing defense, hooked a pass to Kade McKibbin. McKibbin, in turn, found Kenny Styles who drilled a long blast past Massara. About 90 seconds later, the Rychel-Bain duo repeated their earlier feat as Bain replicated his left post move to make it a 5-1 contest.

The Flyers did not press as much in the second and they did not allow the Maroons to inflict any damage. The highlight of the middle stanza came at 7:56 when Zach Guilbeault and Josh Pope-Ferguson laid the groundwork for Jake Nimmo’s liner that flew past Massara.

During much of the period the Flyers just used puck control to subdue the Maroons. Things began to get a bit rough late in the period as the Maroons’ frustrations began to build. When the third frame started, neither side put many shots on net and the Maroons netted the lone goal which came during a powerplay. It was Maroons’ Dawson Garcia’s first tally – a screen shot from the point.

There were a couple of instances when penalties might have been called but the refs let both teams play and handed out only one after that.

Chatham’s two goalies made 22 saves while Meyerink of Leamington halted 25.

NOTES:  Oooops!! When the Flyers came onto the ice for the game’s introductions, Flyers goalie Connor Meyerink slipped and fell to the ice as he got to his crease. Fortunately it was nothing serious since Aidan Pitre was the back-up. Also in Leamington’s lineup as call-ups were Syvano Valente who played superbly and Riley Meyerink. Out for the Flyers were Colton and Bryce O’Brien with suspensions as well as Blake Johnson, Jaydon Fetter and Noah Hedrick. The Maroons were without Dylan Schives, Josh King, Noah Bushnell, Jordan Frasca and goaltender Lucas Patton who was called up to the Windsor Spitfires.  Mike Bakek, Adrian Stubberfield and Cameron Welch were callups for the Maroons  …It was a pleasure to have former Flyer great Jason Baclig on hand. Jason has played hockey in six different countries and for the last 8 seasons has been with the Melbourne Ice (AIHL). He holds multiple records for the GOJHL, West Conference and Leamington Flyers. Among them are Most Career Pts: 333; Most Career Assists: 194; Most Goals (Flyers career) 139; Most Powerplay Goals (Flyers career): 39; Most Game-Winning Goals (Flyers career): 17 ; Most Points By A Jr. B Flyer (season): 107; and Most Assists By A Jr. B Flyer (season): 70. He wears number 57 for Melbourne …The Flyers have only two games remaining before the Christmas break. On Sat. Dec. 16 they are at Komoka for a 7:15 pm game and then finish off the 2017 portion of their schedule at home Thurs. Dec. 21 when they host St. Marys at 6:10 pm.

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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