Devon Fordyce made 44 saves to back stop the Winkler Flyers to an important 3-1 victory over the Virden Oil Capitals on Sunday night. The win now gives the fourth place Flyers a five point lead over the fifth place Oil Caps in the standings with just six games left in the regular season.
Less than 24 hours after dropping a shootout decision in Swan Valley on Saturday night, the Flyers made their way to Tundra Oil and Gas Place in Virden for their fifth meeting of the season against the Oil Caps. With a (0-3-1) record against Virden this season, the Oil Caps were the only team in the MJHL that Winkler had not beaten yet this season, and came into the game with just a three point cushion in the standings.
After being done in by a slow start in Swan River the night before, the Flyers were the exact opposite against Virden and came flying out of the gate in the first. Just 53 seconds into the hockey game, Ryne Keller scored on a back handed shot to give the visitors an early 1-0 advantage. Lawson McDonald and Evan Last assisted on Keller’s third goal as a Flyer.
Continuing to get bodies and pucks towards the front of the net, Winkler increased their lead to 2-0 with 7:24 left in the opening period. This time it was Connor Hamonic and Bryce Enns assisting on Brett Klassen’s sixth of the season.
Virden captain Ben Williams cut Winkler’s lead to 2-1 before the end of the period and the Flyers took their one goal cushion into the intermission while being out-shot 13-8 through 20 minutes. It would be the only time the Oil Caps would get a puck past Devon Fordyce.
Fordyce, who was making his first start since January 25th in Dauphin kept his team in front with many great stops in the second period, allowing the Flyers to carry their 2-1 lead into the third while being outshot 25-17 after two periods. Fordyce’s absence from the ice the last three weeks was due to a case of mono. He was cleared to play just days earlier and played tremendously in his first game back.
Playing with a one goal lead in the third period, Fordyce continued to frustrate the Oil Caps offense with 20 more saves in the final period alone. With the Virden goaltender on the bench in favor of the extra attacker, Scott Gall would score his 23rd of the season and seventh in his last five games into the empty Virden net with 45 seconds to play in regulation to make the final 3-1 for the Flyers. Jon Carlson increased his point streak to four games with an assist.
Fordyce was terrific in goal, earning his first win as a Flyer. The Cochrane, Alberta native made 44 saves in his first win dating back to December 5th against Portage when he was a member of the OCN Blizzard. Virden outshot the Flyers 45-24 overall. Winkler went 0-for-4 on the power-play and 6-for-6 on the penalty-kill.
The fourth place Flyers (29-14-11) now have a five point lead on fifth place Virden Oil Capitals (28-16-8) in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League standings with just six games left in the regular season. Winkler is also just four points behind the third place Steinbach Pistons (33-13-7) and five points behind the Winnipeg Blues (34-15-6).
The Flyers will host the Blues on Tuesday, February 17th in their fifth meeting of the season against Winnipeg. Winkler is (2-1-1) against Winnipeg this season but haven’t played them since December 7th. Puck drop at the Winkler Recreation Complex is 7:30pm. Tuesday’s game will be the first of three straight home games for the Orange and Black.