The Winkler Flyers rode a red hot power-play on their way to a 4-3 victory over the visiting Neepawa Natives in their first official game of the 2018-2019 regular season. The Flyers scored three times in the second period and three of their four goals overall on the man advantage as they got their 39th season in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League off on the right foot.
After a 4-2 preseason, including two wins against Neepawa, the Orange and Black kicked off their regular season campaign against their rivals from Neepawa for the second straight year. With 13 players returning from last year’s squad, the Orange and Black dressed an opening night lineup filled with new faces. With their top seven point producers from last season gone due to graduation, the Flyers offensive production would need to come from some of the newcomers.
And just like that, one of the new faces on the blueline got the ball rolling just before the halfway point of the opening period as rookie defenseman Drake Burgin sent a shot through a screen to give Winkler a 1-0 lead on the power-play, 9:16 into the game. Erik Dahl and Colton Friesen assisted on Burgin’s first Winkler goal. The Flyers defensive play was also on point early on, as Neepawa failed to register a single shot through the first thirteen minutes of play.
However, Neepawa managed to swing the momentum their way late in the period, aided by a number of Flyers’ penalties and tied the game with 5:48 left before intermission. The Natives then took their first lead of the night not long after that, scoring a power-play goal to take a 2-1 lead into the break.
The Flyers adjusted in the middle frame and tied it up with their second power-play goal of the night just four minutes into the period. After working the puck down low, rookie forward Eric Fawkes spotted second year defenseman Erik Dahl creeping in from the point and the Prior Lake, Minnesota native managed to chip a backhanded shot just under the bar to square up the game at two. Colton Friesen also earned his second assist of the game.
Just over four minutes later, Connor Beebe and Jayden McCarthy assisted on Brody Moffatt’s power-play goal and the Flyers had regained the lead 3-2. Winkler’s solid second period continued as Friesen would pick up his third point of the night, assisting of Raihan Kheraj’s first goal as a Flyers and Winkler carried a 4-2 lead into the third.
Starting the third period on the power-play, thanks to a Winkler penalty that carried over from the second, Neepawa cut Winkler’s lead to 4-3 just 1:25 into the final frame. For the remainder of regulation, the Flyers did an outstanding job of protecting their one goal lead and sealing the victory in their first game of the regular season.
Returning goaltender Aaron Brunn picked up the win in net, stopping 33 of the 36 shots he faced as the Flyers outshot Neepawa 37-36 overall. Winkler was 3-for-4 on the power-play and 3-for-5 on the penalty-kill.
Winkler (1-0) will travel to Neepawa (0-1) on Saturday night to take part in the Natives’ home opener at the Yellowhead Centre. You can catch the game live on Country 88.9FM and online at www.pembinavalleyonline.com with Matt Friesen’s pregame show beginning at 7:25pm. You can also live stream the game with a subscription to www.hockeytv.com
GREAT CANADIAN OIL CHANGE THREE STARS
1ST STAR – F COLTON FRIESEN (WINKLER)
2ND STAR – D ERIK DAHL (WINKLER)
3RD STAR – F MACKENZIE BELINSKI (NEEPAWA)