The Winkler Flyers officially punched their ticket to the post-season with a 4-2 win over the Neepawa Natives on Tuesday night. Garrett Szeremley led the charge with three assists as the Flyers picked up their second straight win and 12th victory overall in their last 14 games.
Playing their third home game in a span of three days, and fourth game overall in their last five, the Winkler Flyers played host to the Neepawa Natives looking for their fifth win in five tries against the last place club in the MJHL Standings.
With three of their previous four head to head matchups being decided by a single goal, Tuesday’s game was also a tight one right to the end. The Natives managed to score on their first shot of the game when Cooper Morris’ shot from the point found a hole through a screen and beat goaltender Dylan Meilun just over three minutes into the game. The Flyers rebounded well and took charge the rest of the period, scoring their first goal midway through the opening period.
Just six seconds after having a goal disallowed, Carson Pawlenchuk took a centering pass from Nathan Poolman and picked the top corner for his 10th of the season. Garrett Szeremley also assisted on the goal and the game was tied 1-1.
Just over two minutes later, Garrett Szeremley and Nathan Poolman found the scoresheet again when they assisted on Sulivan Shortreed’s 25th goal of the year to move Winkler in front 2-1. It was Shortreed’s fifth straight game with a point. Outshooting Neepawa 20-4 through 20 minutes, the Flyers carried their one goal lead into the second.
Neepawa goaltender Michael Davis kept the game close in the first period and that continued into the second as the Flyers failed to capitalize on the numerous chances they had around the net. Davis’ teammates would reward him with a game tying goal with 3:04 left in the middle period and the game was all square heading into the third.
Just past the seven minute mark of the third, Flyers’ rookie Jackson Arpin carried the puck out of the corner and snuck a shot under the arm of Davis to move Winkler back in front 3-2. Everett Bestland and Mateo Albinati drew the assists on the Rainy River, Ontario native’s fourth goal of the season.
Then with just over a minute left in regulation, Garrett Szeremley earned his third assist of the game on Grady Lane’s empty net goal to give the Flyers the 4-2 victory. It was the 16 year old’s fourth goal of the season and third point in his last five games.
Dylan Meilun improved his record to 10-3-2, as the Flyers outshot Neepawa 42-17. Winkler went 0-for-5 on the power-play and 3-for-3 on the penalty-kill. The Flyers improved their overall record to 31-11-5, 14-6-3 at home and 12-1-1 in their last 14 games. The second place Flyers are just five points back of the first place Steinbach Pistons and also five points clear of the third place Portage Terriers.
The Flyers win, combined with the Winnipeg Blues’ loss to the Steinbach Pistons on Tuesday, officially clinched a playoff berth for the Orange and Black, a season after missing out of the post-season for the first time in 38 seasons.
The Flyers will enjoy a few days of much needed rest before two more home games this coming weekend. The Flyers will host the Swan Valley Stampeders on Saturday night (7:30pm) and the OCN Blizzard on Sunday afternoon (2:30pm). Both games can be streamed live on www.hockeytv.com