The Winkler Flyers got off to a perfect start to the post-season with a 4-1 win over the OCN Blizzard in Game One of their MJHL Quarterfinal series. The Flyers raced out to a 3-0 first period lead and never looked back while getting the upper hand in the best of seven series.
Looking to start the playoffs on the right foot, the Flyers welcomed the OCN Blizzard to the Winkler Rec Complex for the first game of the series. After finishing in third place in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Standings with a 42-13-5 record, the Flyers earned themselves home ice advantage over the sixth place OCN Blizzard. The Flyers took all three games at home during their six game season series, outscoring OCN 13-2 in those three games. Winkler picked up right where they left off.
Just over two and a half minutes into the game, Winkler native Nolan McGuire banged home a loose puck in front of the net to give Winkler an early 1-0 lead. Coltyn Bates and Mitch Dyck assisted on McGuire’s ninth of the year.
The Flyers success this past season was due in large part to the play of their special teams. With a man in the penalty box serving a too many men on the ice penalty, the Flyers would score their league leading seventh short-handed goal of the season to double their lead to 2-0 with 7:47 left in the first. Picking up the puck at his own blueline, Cam Whyte chipped it off the boards to streaking Tristan Keck who beat the OCN defenseman and snuck his shot through the five-hole of the Blizzard goaltender for his 40th goal of the year. It was also Keck’s fifth short-handed goal of the season.
Winkler would add another special teams goal later in the period, with this one coming on the power-play. With 3:12 to play before the break, Jordy Williamson fed Lawson McDonald a perfect back door pass, and the Flyers defenseman lifted a shot over the blocker of goaltender Emiliem Boily to put Winkler ahead by three. Thomas Mansbridge also assisted and Winkler took their 3-0 lead into the intermission.
The Flyers kept the pressure on in the second but failed to add to their lead, despite outshooting OCN 38-22 through 40 minutes.
Winkler began the third period on the power-play and just 58 seconds into the final frame, Jordy Williamson scored to give the home team a 4-0 advantage. Thomas Mansbridge picked up his second assist of the game, while Scott Gall also earned a point on Williamson’s 17th.
The Blizzard would finally solve the strong goaltending on Nathan Warren, when defenseman Comacho Lathlin banked a point shot off a body in front to cut Winkler’s lead to 4-1 with 12:04 to play.
That is as close as the Blizzard would get as Warren and the rest of the Flyers would shut the door and skate away with the series opening victory in front of 945 fans at the Winkler Rec Complex.
Warren played an extremely solid game between the pipes for Winkler, kicking aside 34 of the 35 shots he faced. Winkler fired 52 shots on the OCN goaltender. Winkler won the special teams battle, going 2-for-7 on the power-play and 3-for-3 on the penalty-kill. Game One was a very entertaining, physical and emotion filled game, and Game Two should be no different as the Blizzard look to tie the series 1-1 before heading up north for games three and four.
The two teams will go at it again on Friday night (March 11th) in Game Two of the series. Puck drop at the Winkler Recreation Complex is 7:30pm. You can catch the game live on Country 88.9FM and online at www.pembinavalleyonline.com with the pregame show at 7:25pm. Advance tickets are available at the Winkler Coop Gas Bar.
Great Canadian Oil Change Three Stars
1st Star – F Tristan Keck (Winkler)
2nd Star – F Jordy Williamson (Winkler)
3rd Star – G Nathan Warren (Winkler)
Winkler Canvas Hardest Working Flyer of the Game.
F Braden Billaney