A home and away series spanning six days between the Flyers and Stars wrapped up in Leamington Thursday night, with Leamington forced to settle for a 4-4 draw.
The Flyers surrendered a two-goal lead in the third period to allow overtime, where 10 scoreless minutes led to their second stalemate of the season.
The first period was played on an even keel between the two teams, with a back and forth pace that didn’t allow either side to dominate. The Flyers were by far the superior side at making the most of their chances however, as Anthony Hurtubise was beat three times while Connor Meyerink kept the Stars’ side of the scoresheet empty. About eight-and-a-half minutes into the game, Josh Pope-Ferguson executed a perfect re-direct on a Maddux Rychel pass while stationed directly in front of the goal, sending the puck through a small gap in the St. Thomas goalie’s armour. Blake Johnson earned the second helper.
Forty-three seconds later, Jake Nimmo made it 2-0 by beating Hurtubise with a lazer of a wrist shot from inside the faceoff circle to the left of the visiting squad’s goal. Zach Guilbeault drew the only assist. Both teams spent some time in the opposition’s defensive zone for the remainder of the penalty-free period. Rychel and Johnson cashed in on a two-on-two rush, with Johnson sending the puck across the crease for his linemate to snap into the empty right side of the Stars’ goal. Pope-Ferguson added the second assist on Rychel’s sixth of the season, buried with 41 seconds remaining.
Leamington outshot St. Thomas 12-9 by the 20 minute mark.
Although the first period was all white, red and black on the scoring front, the second took on a largely different ‘Hu’, as one of the Stars’ most effective forwards made it a one goal game before the 14 minute mark. Kevin Hu took a quick forward pass from near the Leamington blue line for a short breakaway, sending a wrist shot past a sprawling Meyerink to put his team on the board. Soaring in from near the point some seven minutes later, Hu struck again with a wrist shot that found the top right corner.
The Flyers got one back three minutes and 20 seconds later during a rush into the St. Thomas defensive zone. From the right side of the net, Cody Schneider delivered a low wrist shot into the far, left side of the goal. Dylan Weston and Preston Corp set up the successful Schneider shot during the rush.
The middle stanza, also played without a penalty, was also an evenly-matched affair between the second and third place teams, although the Flyers registered a shots advantage of 12-8.
Leamington cooled off at both ends of the in the third, where they were outshot 14-4. Peter Fleming brought the Stars to within a goal for the second time just beyond the four-minute mark, reaching ahead from behind and to the left of the home team’s net to tap the puck past Meyerink and over the line.
The pacifistic nature of the game came to an abrupt halt about two minutes later, when 14 penalties and misconducts were called on eight different players ranging from roughing to inciting, fighting and head contact. Leamington killed off what worked out to a two minute Stars power play, but took another minor late in regulation that proved more costly. With 1:05 to play and on the power play, St. Thomas pulled Hurtubise for a six on four that ended with the tying goal scored as the clock ticked down to 0.8 seconds. During a scramble in front of the Flyers’ net, Jake Robinson sent the puck into the right side of the goal to force extra minutes.
Both teams played a cautious five minutes of four on four, with Leamington establishing an uneventful 1-0 shots on goal advantage. The following five minutes of three-on-three proved far more intense, as Hurtubise was forced to make a number of point blank and sprawling saves — several during the Flyers’ only power play of the night.
Leamington outshot their guests 37-34 and went zero for one on the power play compared to the Stars’ one for three.
“We got caught shorthanded, we lost a few players (to misconducts), our defense was tired and then the puck comes out and it’s tied,” explained Flyers head coach Tony Piroski. “We’ve got to do better in the third period. With a two-goal lead we had no sense of urgency until the game was tied. We should be playing with urgency no matter what the score is.”
“It was a fast paced game where both teams have offense that likes to get in quick and defense that likes to get out quick,” noted Josh Pope-Ferguson after his one goal, one assist performance. “That was one we definitely wanted to win. We don’t like giving up a point like that, especially in the last minute. From here, we just have to have a good-paced practice to get an edge on Strathroy.”
With the weekend off, the Flyers’ next game will be at home Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7:10 p.m. against the Rockets. The game will serve as the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss, where spectators will be encouraged to bring stuffed toys, toques, mitts and scarves to throw onto the ice immediately after the first Leamington goal. The donations will go towards Leamington Toys For Tots.