The Winkler Flyers season came to an unfortunate end on Thursday night with a 6-2 loss to the OCN Blizzard in Game Four of the MJHL Semi-Final. It was a frustrating series for the Flyers, who played good enough to win all four games but ran into the goaltending of Brett Epp and a solid Blizzard defense.
With their backs against the wall after losing a close one the night before in Game Three, the Orange and Black needed a win in Game Four to keep their season alive and force Game Five back at home. The frustrating part for the Flyers in this series was that they had out chanced and out shot the Blizzard but had very little to show for it.
It was a bit of a nerve wracking first period with OCN looking to take the early jump in this potential series clinching game for the Blizzard. For the fourth time in the series, OCN scored first on a goal by Lantz Hiebert just before the four minute mark of the second. Nearly five minutes later the Blizzard doubled their lead to 2-0 and the Flyers were in a hole halfway through the game.
The Flyers power-play, which had gone 0-for-11 in the first three games, finally connected with 8:49 to play in the middle frame. Taking a nice pass from Scott Gall, Gino Lucia sent a shot into the far side of the net for his first goal of the post-season. With less than three minutes to play before the break, Matt Christian finished off a nice passing play with Lucia and Nolan McGuire and the game was tied 2-2 thanks to Christian’s third of the playoffs.
The Flyers had a tough test to start the third period, being forced to kill off a 5-on-3 power-play coming out of the intermission. After passing that test, Winkler went on the power-play themselves but failed to take their first lead of the series. OCN would catch a break just seconds after the Winkler power-play ended, as Justin Nachbaur was sent in on a breakaway after stepping out of the penalty box and he put OCN back in front 3-2.
Just over two minutes later, Nachbaur scored again, this time on the power-play and the Blizzard lead had grown to 4-2. Having already erased a two goal lead earlier in the game, the Flyers kept pressing for more offense.
However, the OCN defense would not break as the Blizzard added an empty net goal in the final minutes and tacked on another one for good measure to clinch the series with a 6-2 win on home ice.
Troy Martyniuk made 26 saves in the game as the Flyers would outshoot OCN for the third straight game by a count of 32-30. Winkler went 1-for-7 on the power-play and 4-for-5 on the penalty-kill.
This is the second straight season that the Flyers have been eliminated in the MJHL Semi-Finals and the first time since 2006 that the Blizzard have advanced to the final series.
The Flyers would like to thank their graduating 20 year old players for all of their hard work and dedication to the organization and to the community. Four year players Scott Gall and Connor Hamonic, third year forward Jeff Michiels, as well as Brayden Cullum, Tanner Lewis, Nathan Peabody, Tyler Lindstrom and Ian Mackey.
The organization would also like to thank all their supporters, fans, volunteers and billets for their tremendous support throughout the season and look forward to seeing you again during the 2017-2018 campaign.
GREAT CANADIAN OIL CHANGE THREE STARS
1ST STAR – G BRETT EPP (OCN)
2ND STAR – F GINO LUCIA (WINKLER)
3RD STAR – F JUSTIN NACHBAUR (OCN)