The Winkler Flyers nearly salvaged a very slow start in Neepawa on Friday night, falling 5-4 in a shootout to the Natives in their regular season finale. Trailing by four goals in the second, Winkler came all the way back to tie the game only to come up just short at the end.
Looking to put the finishing touches on their very impressive season so far, the Flyers boarded the bus for the final time during the regular season for their sixth and final meeting against the Natives. Winkler had won their last 10 road contests coming into the game, and were 5-0 in their previous five games against Neepawa.
Winkler got off to a very sluggish start as Neepawa took it to the Flyers in the first 20 minutes. The Natives opened the scoring just under five minutes into the game and doubled their lead to 2-0 before the end of the period. Winkler was outshot 16-9 in the first.
The start to the second period wasn’t much better as Neepawa would add two more before the midway point. Now trailing 4-0, the Flyers comeback effort began with 7:25 remaining in the second when Coltyn Bates shoveled in his 7th of the year on the power-play to bring Winkler within three goals. Jeff Michiels and Nolan McGuire assisted.
Still down 4-1 to start the third, Winkler scored again just over four minutes into the period. Once again on the power-play, Kurt Sonne and Thomas Mansbridge assisted on Jordan Wall’s shot from the point to cut Neepawa’s lead to 4-2.
Now with momentum on their side, the Flyers seemed to wake up and went looking to two more. With just minutes left in regulation, Scott Gall would score twice in a span of a minute and two seconds to tie the game 4-4 and send the contest to overtime. Zak Hicks, Nathan Karlowsky, Tristan Keck and Lawson McDonald would all get assists on Gall’s 33rd and 34th goals of the season.
The Flyers peppered the Neepawa net with good scoring chances in the overtime period, but could not find the back of the net.
Winkler’s comeback effort would fall short at the end as Native’s assistant captain Brayden Atkinson would score the only goal of the shootout to give his team the 5-4 victory in their last game of the season.
Connor Slipp took the loss making 31 saves while seeing his record fall to 18-4-1. Winkler outshot Neepawa 45-35 overall. Winkler went 2-for-5 on the power-play and 1-for-1 on the penalty-kill.
The Flyers finished their 2015-2016 regular season with a 42-13-5 record, which is their best showing in 14 years. The third place Flyers will now get ready to host the sixth place OCN Blizzard in game one of their MJHL quarterfinal series on Thursday, March 10th. A full playoff preview will be coming on www.winklerflyers.com in the coming days.
Great Canadian Oil Change Three Stars
1st Star – F Scott Gall (Winkler)
2nd Star – F Coltyn Bates (Winkler)
3rd Star – F Brayden Atkinson (Neepawa)
Winkler Canvas Hardest Working Flyer
F Nico Labossiere.