The Winkler Flyers got off to another fast start in a 5-2 win over the OCN Blizzard in Game Three of their MJHL Quarterfinal series on Monday night. Tristan Keck scored just 18 seconds into the game as the Flyers went on to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best of seven series.
After the Flyers won the first two games in Winkler, the series moved up north for the next two games. The Flyers special teams success and quick starts propelled them to victory in game’s one and two, and Winkler was looking to follow that same recipe, this time at the Gordon Lathlin Memorial Centre in OCN.
It didn’t take Winkler long to draw first blood as Connor Hamonic took the puck at his own blueline just moments after the opening faceoff and found Tristan Keck open near the OCN line. After taking the pass, Keck raced down the right wing and picked the far side of the net to give Winkler a 1-0 lead just 18 seconds into the game.
It was a physical first period, as the Blizzard tried to get back into the series by getting the Flyers off their game. During a Blizzard power-play with just over four minutes to go in the period, Zak Hicks cleared the puck to the blueline to Cam Whyte who found Keck racing down the ice once again. From exactly the same spot as before, Keck snapped a shot far side on Emiliem Boily to put Winkler ahead by two. It was Keck’s team leading fourth goal of the playoffs and sixth shorthanded goal of the year.
The Blizzard would cut Winkler’s lead to 2-1 with a goal, 6:24 into the second period, but Winkler was quick to get that one back. Not even three minutes later, Tristan Keck fed a back door pass to Cam Whyte who found the back of the net on the power-play to move Winkler in front 3-1. However, OCN would move to within one goal once again just minutes later and the Flyers took their 3-2 lead into the third.
In their three games played against Winkler in OCN during the regular season, the Blizzard scored a combined seven goals in the third period. And with the chances of going down 3-0 in the series, the Flyers knew the Blizzard would come at them hardin the third.
Goaltender Nathan Warren, who had been rock solid so far in the playoffs, continued his stellar play keeping his team in the lead. The Flyers got the insurance they needed with their second power-play goal of the game with 9:31 left on the clock. Scott Gall carried the puck out of the left wing corner and tucked a back handed shot under the arm of Boily to restore the Flyers’ two goal cushion. Connor Hamonic and Jordy Williamson assisted on Gall’s second of the playoffs.
The Flyers got into some penalty trouble late in the third and found themselves on a 6-on-4 penalty-kill in the final minutes as the Blizzard pulled Boily in favor of the extra attacker. Then with just 58 seconds left in regulation, Connor Hamonic completed his three point night, finding the back of the empty OCN net to make the final 5-2 for the Orange and Black.
Nathan Warren made 38 saves in goal for Winkler as the Flyers outshot the Blizzard 50-40. Winkler went 2-for-6 on the power-play and 4-for-4 on the penalty-kill.
The Flyers and Blizzard will meet again at the Gordon Lathlin Memorial Centre in OCN for Game Four of the series on Tuesday night (March 15th). Puck drop is 7pm with the broadcast on Country 88.9FM and online at www.pembinavalleyonline.com getting underway at 6:55pm.
Winkler will be looking for the series sweep and to book their tickets to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Semi-Finals. The first three games of the series have been very entertaining, and Game Four should be no different.
Great Canadian Oil Change Three Stars
1st Star – Tristan Keck (Winkler)
2nd Star – Connor Hamonic (Winkler)
3rd Star – Scott Gall/Kayden Jarvis (Winkler)
Winkler Canvas Hardest Working Flyer of the Game
D Lawson McDonald