Assistant Captain Griffin Leonard scored the game winning goal just 71 seconds into overtime to give the Winkler Flyers a 4-3 victory over the visiting OCN Blizzard on Sunday night. Despite letting a three goal lead slip away, the Flyers managed to pick up two very valuable points while officially entering the final third of their regular season schedule.
Entering play on Sunday, the second place Flyers had earned at least a point in their last seven games and had come out on the right side of their four previous games against the Blizzard. Coming off a shootout loss in Virden on Friday, the Flyers got off to a great started against OCN and managed to do something that they had done just three times in their last 12 games, and that's score the first goal of the game.
The Flyers spent the first few minutes of the game in the OCN zone, and after Griffin Leonard saw a couple of great chances kicked aside by Blizzard netminder Danick Rodrigue, Captain Jaden Townsend jumped on a rebound and put Winkler ahead 1-0 with his 11th of the season. Just 19 seconds after that, the Flyers red hot offense struck again as Ian Tookenay and Sulivan Shortreed assisted on Drake Burgin's seventh of the season and Winkler had doubled their lead to 2-0.
Still leading by a pair early in the second period, the Flyers went on the power-play and added one more to their total. With 4:32 gone in the period, Drake Burgin set up Sulivan Shortreed for his 23rd goal of the season and fifth in his last five games. It was also Burgin's league best 35th assist of the season.
Before the end of the period, the Blizzard hit the scoreboard to cut Winkler's lead to 3-1. In the opening minutes of the final frame, the Blizzard caught the Flyers napping twice in the defensive zone and scored two quick ones to tie the game 3-3 with under 17 minutes still to go.
With the game still tied after the end of the third period, the Flyers were headed to extra time for the second straight game. Just over a minute into period four, Nathan Poolman led the Flyers into the attacking zone on an odd man rush. After slowing down at the right wing slot, Poolman spotted a trailing Griffin Leonard who scored his 22nd goal of the season to give the Flyers the 4-3 win. Nathan Poolman and Jayden McCarthy assisted, increasing their point streaks to six and five games respectively. It was Leonard's sixth point in his last four games.
Dorrin Luding earned his 18th win of the year in goal for Winkler as the Flyers outshot the Blizzard 45-27. Winkler went 1-for-3 on the power-play and 4-for-4 on the penalty-kill. The Flyers are now 5-0 against OCN this season, 11-5-3 on home ice and 21-2-2 when they score a goal on the power-play.
The Flyers (26-10-5), who have won their last six games at home and are in sole possession of second place in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League Standings, will host the first place Steinbach Pistons on Tuesday night. Winkler trails Steinbach by six points for top spot in the MJHL. Puck drop at the Winkler Recreation Complex is 7:30pm. You can catch the game live on www.hockeytv.com