Welcome GOJHL fans. This is the first installment of the Games of the Week review for the Western Conference for Sept. 9-11. There were 4 games this week.
The first game this week, and first game of the 2014-2015 GOJHL season, was the Sarnia Legionnaires hosting the Western Conference Champion Leamington Flyers on Tuesday, September 9.
The Legionnaires pulled out a come from behind win to defeat the Flyers 6-4.
Story by Jon Maillet of the Lambton Sheild.
Sarnia Legionnaires ground the Leamington Flyers in 6-4 win
By Jon Maillet on September 10, 2014
Kyler Keating shone in his Sarnia Legionnaires debut with a goal and three assists in a 6-4 win over the GOJHL’s defending Western Conference Champion Leamington Flyers.
The Legionnaires saw their first test of the season after what looked like a relatively easy preseason which saw them only lose once.
Sarnia started the game with a quick goal by Nathan Mater, who lit the lamp just 20 seconds into the game to give the Legionnaires the quick 1-0 lead. Riley Roberts and Tyler Prong assisted the Legionnaires first goal of the 2014/2015 campaign.
Despite setting the tone with the early goal, the Flyers controlled the first period, out shooting Sarnia 15-5, and answering back with 3 goals of their own. Cale Phibbs tied it for Leamington 5:52 into the first, after banging home a rebound of an Alex Derksen shot from the point, Mitchell Amante the other assist on the play.
The Flyers took the lead on a power play goal by Thomas Virban, another point shot that beat Hunter Johnson, Nathan Opblinger the lone assist to make it 2-1. Flyers added one more before the end of the first, Chris Scott knocks home a rebound to give Leamington a 3-1 lead.
“We scored early and the was not necessarily a good thing,” said Coach Dan Rose. “I think the boys let up a little bit and the Flyers have 12 or 13 guys from last year’s championship team so they know how to play already and they came at us hard in that first period and we got on our heels a bit. After the boys settled down we battled back in the second.”
Battle back they did. After being outshot and out scored in the first period, the Legionnaires came out with some jump, former Lambton Shores Predator defence men Kyler Keating picking up his first point as a member of the Legionnaires after assisting Riley Babkirk’s first goal of the season.
That power play goal cut the Flyers lead to 3-2, Bobby King had an assist as well. Late in the second period, Cameron Clarke spotted Jay Clarke at the side of the net, with limited space J. Clarke was able to find some room and tie the game at 3-3. Nathan Mater picked up his second point of the game with an assist on that goal, Legionnaires led the shots in the second 10-6.
With the game tied, Leamington came out with a sense of urgency early on. Hunter Johnson was forced to make some big saves in the first few minutes to keep the game tied. It wasn’t until the midway point the tie was broken, the Legionnaires continued their surge this time captain Nathan Mater scored his second of the game, J. Clarke and Keating picking up the assists.
One could almost call that third period the Kyler Keating show, as minutes later Keating let a wrister go from the point, that puck beat Trevor Wheaton over the shoulder and gave the Legionnaires a 5-3 lead, a power play goal assisted by Tyler Longo and Brandon Layman and was the eventual game winner.
The Flyers made a game of it by scoring late in the third as Alex Friesen launched a laser beam of a shot that beat Johnson just under the bar. But that is as close as Leamington would get. Riley Babkirk added the empty netter, his second goal of the game, Keating with an assist to finish off a four point night in his Sarnia debut.
Sarnia went 2 for 10 on the powerplay and went 3 for 4 on the penalty kill.
“We have to work on our powerplay, but the reality is that they (Leamington) have the best PK in the league and have for three years so they really tested us tonight. We just threw those units together before the game as well, so the kids hadn’t played together yet,” Rose said after the game about his powerplay. Overall Rose was happy with the win. “Our compete level is where I like to see it, it was a good first game in our barn.”
Hunter Johnson put in another solid night of work, turning away 27 of 31 shots in his first win of the season.
This was a great test for this Legionnaires team and there is a lot of potential in this offensive core. Of course the addition of Kyler Keating only bolsters an already strong back end, and as was seen on Tuesday, has added some more offence as well. If I had to guess, I would say this Legionnaires team is capable of a top three finish and could potentially have 30-35 wins this season.
Game 2 this week was Wed. night when the LaSalle Vipers hosted the London Nationals. The Vipers defeated the Nats 7-4. Game summary from www.lasallevipers.com
Vipers top Nationals in home opener
The LaSalle Vipers cruised to a 7-4 victory over the London Nationals in front of 699 fans who braved heavy rains and flood warnings to attend the annual tailgate party and home opener at the Vollmer Centre Wednesday night.
Ken Antaya, the mayor of LaSalle, performed the official puck drop to signify the beginning of the season in a pre-game ceremony that included deputy mayor Mark Carrick and town councillors Sue Desjarlais, Marc Bondy and Crystal Meloche.
Super star singer Crystal Gage entertained the crowd prior to the game with her interactive routine, and performed the national anthem as well.
Through the generous donations of Vipers fans at the tailgate party, approximately $215.00 was raised for The PUCK Stops Here, the Vipers community outreach program.
Vipers forward Brendan Harrogate, 16, notched the season’s first goal when he scored at 5:11 of the first period. Brett Primeau got a piece of a Brett Langlois slap shot, giving LaSalle a two-goal lead just minutes later. Daniel Beaudoin launched a rocket past Nationals goaltender Justin Tugwell with one minute left in the opening period, allowing the Vipers to take a 3-0 lead into the intermission.
In the second period, London mounted a comeback, with goals by Austin Kemp, Tanner Lafrance and Drew Worrard. Connor Rosaasen and Harrogate replied for the Vipers, who entered the third period ahead 5-3.
LaSalle’s Korey Morgan cashed on a rebound for a power play goal to take a three-goal lead, but London’s Ethan Cocurullo brought the Nationals back within two.
Manny Silverio, who also had three assists, hit an empty net to restore the three-goal advantage and cement the victory.
Harrogate, playing in his first junior hockey game, led the way with two goals. Nathan Savage and Brett Langlois had two assists, while Beaudoin and Primeau had multi-point nights.
Paolo Battisti stopped 25 of 29 shots to record the victory while Tugwell allowed seven on 34 attempts.
The Vipers next game comes Friday night in St. Marys. Our next home action is Wednesday, Sept. 17 against the Strathroy Rockets.
We are asking fans to bring in and donate school supplies that night, all of which will go to local schools and students.
Game 3 this week was Leamington Flyers home opener against the St. Thomas Stars. Prior to the game, Leamington unveiled their 2013-2014 Western Ontario Conference Champions banner, high above the ice. The Flyers skated to a 3-1 win over the Stars.
Game summary courtesy of C. Scott Holland.
Flyers Raise Banner, Edge Stars In Close Contest
by C. Scott Holland
Having lost many of their top scorers and one goaltender to overage, the 2014/15 Leamington Flyers are adjusting, as nearly half the team consists of rookies. But one thing was evident after their home opening ceremonies, in which they honored last year’s championship team; they will be highly competitive and rely heavily upon defense and speed.
With the championship banner raised to the rafters by many of last season’s overagers and management, and a short tribute paid to two of the club’s volunteer members who passed away this past summer, the Flyers began the celebration of their 60th season of junior hockey.
The St. Thomas Stars likewise have quite a few rookies in their lineup and after a slight scare when their bus dropped the players off then left the arena with their jerseys, Ron Horvat and crew managed to come prepared.
During the opening minutes of the contest both teams were tentative in their chances but as the players got over their nervousness, a good game followed.
Many eyes were on one of last year’s Flyers playoff stars, Eric Henderson, and it was Henderson who initiated the play on the game’s first tally. Henderson’s feed to vet Kyle Quick who in turn slipped a pass to newcomer Alex Derksen. Derksen ripped the goal at 8:50 to spot the Flyers a 1-0 lead.
The Flyers began to press Stars’ netminder Nikolas Dampier and at 11:20, Cale Phibbs and captain Mitchell Amante sent Thomas Virban down the right lane and Virban blasted a shot that rung loudly off a post and into the net to put the Flyers up 2-0.
The Stars received a powerplay less than one minute after Virban’s marker and, at 13:14 in the dying seconds of that chance, Wade Russell, who was behind the Flyers’ net and trying to pass out front, banked a Gretzky-like shot off Leamington starter Trevor Wheaton’s pads and the Stars were on the board.
The game’s final goal came at 2:33 of the second when Matthew Opblinger, the rookie younger brother of Nathan Opblinger, hooked a pass to Alex Friesen and Kyle Perkowski. The two Flyers went on a two-on-one breakaway and it was Perkowski who shovelled the puck past Dampier.
Throughout the remainder of the contest, both sides had plenty of opportunities to add goals via powerplays, but the two netminders made some great saves to keep the contest close. However, the Stars seemed to find Leamington’s big 200′ by 100′ ice surface a bit much and seldom tested Trevor Wheaton, while the Flyers did nothing but fire away at Dampier, but found themselves not hitting the target too often.
In a last ditch effort the Stars lifted Dampier for an extra-attacker in the final minute, but it was to no avail.
Overall, both teams appear to be works in progress. The Flyers did display immense speed including one on a penalty kill where Alex Derksen grabbed the puck, then wove through players doing a half circle circuit of the Heinz arena while killing about 20 seconds of time and then feeding a teammate and heading to the bench. That one play alone was worth the admission.
The Flyers outshot the Stars 29-15 with a superb PK as they held the Stars to one powerplay goal on eight chances, while the Stars had kept Leamington scoreless on four tries.
Leamington heads to Chatham on Sunday night for a big test there, and then return home next Thursday to face the LaSalle Vipers.
Game 4 was Sarnia Legionnaires hosting Strathroy Rockets. It was a fast paced game and the Legionnaires pulled out a 5-3 win over the Rockets. It was a great game, as I expected it to be, with some questionable calls from the referees, but in my opinion, both goalies played well. There were times when Hunter Johnson was a brick wall, shutting down everything that the Rockets were shooting at him.
Game summary from Sarnia Observer.
The Sarnia Legionnaires used a potent power-play to shoot down the Strathroy Rockets 5-3 in Western Jr. ‘B’ hockey action Thursday.
With the win the Legion crew improved its won-lost record to 2-0.
Three of Sarnia’s five goals came with a man advantage.
“That was a pretty good game,” Legionnaires head coach Dan Rose said afterward. “We were more efficient (than in Sarnia’s 1st game). We weren’t as scrambly. We have four good lines right now. It’s nice to see the boys respond to the things we (the coaching staff) talked about after the last game. These guys are determined to win this year. They’re a disciplined group.”
Jay Clarke led the offense, scoring twice.
“I think it’s going to be a good season, we’re off to a good start,” Clarke said. As for his two goals, he credited his linemates with making them possible. “I didn’t do a lot of work, I was just lucky and I was in the right spot.”
Other Sarnia markers were scored by Cody Trowell, Ryan Trottier and Jordan Fogarty.
Brett Dalton, Mark MacAuley and Stuart King replied for the Rockets.
Goalie Hunter Johnson got the win in net, while Tynan Lauziere was tagged with the loss.
Attendance was just under 1,100.
The Legionnaires return to action next Thursday when they host the London Nationals. Game time at the Brock Street Barn is set for 7:10 p.m.
Coming up this weekend:
St. Marys Lincolns hosting LaSalle Vipers – 7:30 Pyramid Rec Centre
St. Thomas Stars hosting Chatham Maroons – 7:30 Timken Centre
Lambton Shores Predators hosting Strathroy Rockets – 7:30 Shores Rec Centre
Chatham Maroons hosting Leamington Flyers – 7:00 Chatham Memorial
Lambton Shores Predators hosting London Nationals – 7:30 Shores Rec Centre
In my opinion, I think the game to watch is Chatham vs. Leamington on Sun night. Another good one might be St. Thomas vs. Chatham tonight, which I haven’t decided, but that might be the game I’ll be at this weekend.
See you Monday hockey fans!