Goaltender Riley Morgan made 48 saves and stopped all three Neepawa skaters in the shootout as the Winkler Flyers downed the Natives 4-3 for the second straight night. It was a game of highs and lows for the Flyers who saw rookie forward Josh Kagan score an amazing game winning goal in the shootout, helping the Flyers start their season with back to back wins.
On the road for the first time, the Flyers had hopes of building off their 4-3 win the night before in their home opener, which was also against Neepawa. Head Coach Steve Mullin went with the exact same line up as Friday night with just one exception as 18 year old newcomer Riley Morgan made his first start in a Flyer uniform. And he would turn out to be the story of the game for Winkler.
After a scoreless first period, where the Natives outshot the Flyers 15-10, Winkler hit the scoreboard first just over five minutes into the second. Making a jumping catch on a Natives’ clearing attempt at the Neepawa blueline, defenseman Raihan Kheraj found Captain Connor Beebe in the left slot and the 20 year old winger banked a shot off a body in front and through the legs of Brendan Benoit giving Winkler the 1-0 lead.
During their Friday night victory at home, Winkler had scored three of their four goals on the man advantage and used their red hot power-play to double their lead just a few minutes later. With 7:12 left in the period, Trent Halfdanson took a pass between the faceoff circles, skated in and snapped a shot off the cross bar and in to make the score 2-0 for the visitors. Colton Friesen and Eric Fawkes picked up their fourth and second assists of the year respectively on the goal.
With a two goal lead and their goaltender playing well, the Flyers entered the third period hoping to protect their lead en route to victory. However, the Natives had other ideas as they would capitalize on a number of defensive miscues and some lucky bounces around the Winkler net to score three times in the first three and a half minutes of the third and Winkler was all of a sudden trailing 3-2.
But instead of letting Neepawa fully take control of the game, the Flyers were able to tie the game up near the halfway mark of the third thanks to a lucky bounce of their own. After taking a drop pass off the rush from defenseman Erik Dahl, forward Josh Kagan fired a shot to the far side of the net and off the chest of Brody Moffatt and past the blocker arm of Benoit, tying the game 3-3.
Thanks in large part to their goaltender, Winkler managed to get the game to overtime and then to a shootout still tied a three goals each. Then in the shootout, after the first two shooters failed in their attempts, rookie forward Josh Kagan scored a highlight reel goal which proved to be the game winner. Carrying the puck down the right side, Kagan faked a forehand shot but swung the puck around Benoit with one hand on his stick before tucking the puck across the goal line.
It was then up to Morgan who made the game winning save on the third Neepawa shooter, securing the 4-3 win for Winkler.
Morgan made 48 saves overall as the Flyers were outshot 51-39. Winkler went 1-for-3 on the power-play with a perfect 6-for-6 penalty-kill.
The Flyers (2-0) will now enjoy a few days off before travelling to Winnipeg on Thursday, September 27th for a date with the Winnipeg Blues. Puck drop at Bell/MTS Iceplex is 7pm with Matt Friesen’s pregame show on Country 88 and online at www.pembinavalleyonline.com getting underway at 6:55pm.
GREAT CANADIAN OIL CHANGE THREE STARS
1ST STAR – G RILEY MORGAN (WINKLER)
2ND STAR – F JOSH KAGAN (WINKLER)
3RD STAR – F KURTIS LUKE (NEEPAWA)