The Winkler Flyers season came to a disappointing conclusion on Wednesday night with a 6-3 loss to the Steinbach Pistons in Game Seven of the MJHL Semi-Finals. The Flyers gave it their best effort in the deciding game of the series, but failed to get the job done on the road.
After their best regular season in 14 years and their first trip to the league semi-final since 2011, the Flyers were looking to punch their ticket to the league final in Game Seven against the Steinbach Pistons. After failing to eliminate the Pistons in the two previous games, the Flyers were hoping to get the job done with another road win in Steinbach. However, injuries and the physical demands of two grueling series’ against the OCN Blizzard and Steinbach Pistons would eventually catch up to the Flyers.
In the first six games of the series, the Flyers were the ones who opened the scoring. In Game Seven it was the Pistons who hit the scoreboard first. Seven minutes into the game, Pistons’ Captain Tyler Penner gave his team a 1-0 lead, tapping in a loose puck in front of the net.
Steinbach doubled their lead to 2-0 just 56 seconds later on a controversial goal by Quinton Lisoway. During a scramble in front of the Winkler goal, the puck lay sitting on the goal line as the net came dislodged. The official awarded the Pistons the goal and Steinbach had a two goal lead before the eight minute mark of the first.
The Flyers bounced right back with their fifth short-handed goal of the playoffs just moments later when Jordy Williamson gloved down a Pistons pass at the Winkler blueline and raced into the zone and tucked in his second of the playoff, cutting Steinbach’s lead to 2-1. However, on the same Pistons power-play, Cole Smith scored to restore Steinbach’s two goal lead. All four of those goals came in a span on two minutes and four seconds. Steinbach took their 3-1 lead into the second period.
Jeff Michiels would bring the Flyers back to within a goal with 8:53 gone in the second period with his third of the post-season. After picking up the puck in the right wing corner, Michiels skated towards the goal and scored, cutting the Pistons’ lead to 3-2. Coltyn Bates and Jordan Wall assisted on the goal.
With 5:35 remaining in the period, Cole Smith scored his second of the game for the Pistons and the Flyers were once again down by two goals. The Flyers would get that one back with a power-play goal later in the period. Kayden Jarvis and Cam Whyte assisted on Zak Hicks’ slap shot goal from the point and Winkler trailed 4-3 after two periods.
Winkler’s comeback effort took a hit early in the third period, when Hayden Goderis capitalized on a Flyers’ turnover and pushed the Pistons back in front by two goals just 1:20 into the third. Steinbach would protect their lead and add an empty netter at the end to win the game 6-3 and win the series four games to three.
The Pistons outshot the Flyers 42-20 in the hockey game. Winkler went 1-for-3 on the power-play and 4-for-5 on the penalty-kill.
With the win, the Pistons eliminated the Flyers from the playoff and will now face the defending RBC Cup Champion Portage Terriers in the league final.
The Flyers have 14 players eligible to return next season and are very optimistic when looking ahead to the 2016-2017 campaign. However, the Flyers do have to say goodbye to nine graduating 20 year olds. Forwards Tristan Keck, Cam Whyte, Kayden Jarvis, Thomas Mansbridge, Kurt Sonne and Jordan Williamson have all played their last game as a Flyer. Defensemen Nathan Karlowsky and Zak Hicks and Goaltender Nathan Warren have also graduated from Junior Hockey.
The entire Flyers organization would like to thank all their players for their efforts and sacrifice throughout the season. The Flyers would also like to thanks all the staff, volunteers, billets, fans and supporters for an amazing season. Without all of you, the Winkler Flyers would not exist.
The 2015-2016 season was a truly memorable year with many more ups than downs. The positive strides made both on and off the ice bode well for the future of the Winkler Flyers Junior Hockey Club.
See you next season!