Flyers Tame Maroons 6-1 To Start 2018 – by C. Scott Holland 

Treacherous weather conditions and extremely cold temperatures did not dampen the spirits of 655 fans who visited the Highbury Canco arena on Thursday evening to watch the Leamington Flyers host the Chatham Maroons. Included among the fans was temporary GOJHL commissioner Mark Tuck who thought that the league’s Future Stars and Prospects games held on Dec. 28th were highly successful.

But on Thursday night it was the return of regular action for both teams. The Maroons were looking to gain revenge for the loss they suffered just before Christmas break and the hometown Flyers were out to gain a couple of needed points to keep themselves firmly entrenched in second place.

With Maroons’ head coach Ron Horvat away on vacation (sunning himself somewhere down south), his assistant coaches were left in charge. Horvat was probably glad he did not witness the performance. The two teams were tentative for most of the first five minutes and battled hard to gain puck control and shots. Leamington drew first blood and opened the wound further by the end of the first frame. Maddux Rychel and Andrew Thoms initiated  a powerplay drive that was completed when Griffin Robinson left lane screen shot sailed past Maroons’ starter John Massara at 6:41. The game’s closeness continued until the Flyers’ Dalton Langlois slid a pass to Kade McKibbon whose top of slot shot bounded off Cody Schneider to make it 2-0 near the 13 minute mark. Shortly thereafter, the Flyers took advantage of another powerplay opportunity. This time at 16:13 Rychel and Robinson began a play with several players jammed tightly around the crease area,, but Robinson found Colton O’Brien wide open to Massara’s left and O’Brien hammered the puck into the Maroons’ net to give the hometown boys a 3-0 lead. And they weren’t done yet. The Flyers capped the scoring binge of the first at 18:38 when Kenny Styles and Rory DiNiro found Nathan Skulley alone in the slot and Skulley drilled a shot cleanly past Massara.

The scoring outburst must have come as a relief to Leamington.

Near the midway point of the second after several shifts when Noah Hedrick, who was starting for the Flyers for the first time since suffering an injury on Dec. 10th vs Sarnia, had halted everything Chatham flung his way, some nastiness erupted. Leamington’s Bryce O’Brien ws sidelined with a four-minute spearing penalty while teammate Colton O’Brien and Chatham’s Noah Bushnell were off for roughing after the whistle. It took the Maroons a minute to break Hedrick’s shutout bid as Steven Fowler snapped a left lane shot that eluded Hedrick and stood as the only goal that Chatham would get. Despite allowing that single tally, the Flyers regrouped and added some more sting into the wound. Blake Bain and Maddux Rychel set up Griffin Robinson’s beautiful backhand tally at 14:31. Next Flyers’ captain Zach Guilbeault and Bain hooked passes to connect with Rychel who chipped in the final goal which sent Massara to the showers.  Chatham back-up goalie Ryan Wagner replaced Massara and was outstanding the rest of the way.

Massara ended the night making 15 saves while Wagner halted all 13 shots put on him. Noah Hedrick made 34 saves between the Leamington pipes.

NOTES:  It was a very unusual occurrence that Pointstreak was down and appeared to be suffering from a “virus” of some kind – and speaking of viruses, word around the rink was that many people had suffered a flu-like virus or colds during the holiday season …Lineup changes were few. For Leamington Jaydon Fetter and Josh Pope-Ferguson were sidelined while Jordan Frasca, and Dawson Garcia were out. Tate Bowden suited up for the Maroons and wore number 25  …The Flyers are off until their next home game vs the London Nationals next Thursday (Jan. 11). It will be their last full weekend off until the first weekend in February …On behalf of myself and everyone n the GOJHL we want to wish everybody a safe, healthy and very happy 2018. Get out and root for your team and enjoy some good junior hockey – remember you may be watching some of tomorrow’s brightest stars!  

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