The Winkler Flyers got up early and held on late in an important 6-4 win over the visiting Selkirk Steelers on Tuesday night. In front of nearly 1500 fans, Braden Billaney scored three times to help the second place Flyers increase their lead over the third place Steelers by another two points.
Entering play with a three point lead over the Steelers in the race for second place in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League standings, the Flyers looked to begin their three game homestand on the right foot after a fairly successful weekend road trip.
With it being Crocus Real Estate 20th Anniversary Community Appreciation Free Admission Night, together with MIG Insurance, a huge crowd was on hand to cheer on their home town team. The Flyers gave them something to cheer about early thanks to Gino Lucia’s 14th of the season on the power-play just 6:15 into the game.
The Flyers added to their lead just six minutes later when Lawson McDonald and Tanner Lewis assisted on Braden Billaney’s first of the game and 15th of the year to increase Winkler’s lead to 2-0. Right after the ensuing faceoff, Gino Lucia made a great play down the right wing wall, out working the Selkirk defense before sending the puck over to the far wing to Billaney who found the back of the net again just 23 seconds after doing it the first time.
After calling a timeout to try and settle things down, the Steelers scored two of their own before the end of the period and Winkler took a 3-2 lead into the break.
It was an intense and emotional second period and just before the 10 minute mark of the middle frame, the Steelers tied the game 3-3 on the power-play. Just 26 seconds later though, Tanner Lewis would deposit a rebound past Selkirk goaltender Hayden Dola and the Flyers had quickly regained their lead. Gino Lucia and Mitch Dyck drew the assists on Lewis’ 11th of the season and third in his last four games.
Winkler added one more before the second intermission and it came from defenseman Mitch Dyck, who scored his fourth of the year with Ian Mackey and Brett Opperman assisting.
Taking a 5-3 lead into the third period, the Flyers tried to shut the game down in the third period but the Steelers pushed hard in the final frame knowing the value of the two points up for grabs this late in the season. Just before the three minute mark, Selkirk forward Ezra Hall tipped in the Steelers’ fourth goal past a screened Cole Weaver and Winkler’s lead was cut to 5-4.
The rest of the period was played with a lot of tension as both teams looked to force things to go their way. In the final minute, with Selkirk’s goaltender on the bench in favour of the extra attacker, Lawson McDonald took the puck in the Winkler zone and found Braden Billaney who scored his third of the game to give the Flyers the insurance goal they needed.
Cole Weaver made a number of key saves earning his 22nd win of the season. He made 32 saves overall as the Steelers outshot Winkler 36-30. Both teams were 1-for-4 on the power-play.
The second place Flyers (34-12-2) are now five points ahead of the third place Steelers with one game in hand. Winkler, who is now finished a stretch of four games in five days, will get ready for a pair of weekend home games against the Swan Valley Stampeders and Dauphin Kings. Game time on Friday and Saturday is 7:30pm. Both games can be streamed live on www.hockeytv.com
GREAT CANADIAN OIL CHANGE THREE STARS
1ST STAR – F BRADEN BILLANEY (WINKLER)
2ND STAR – F GINO LUCIA (WINKLER)
3RD STAR – F TANNER LEWIS (WINKLER)