For the second time in as many games at Highbury Canco Arean, the Leamington Flyers sent their guests home with a 6-3 loss.
After suffering their first loss of 2017-18 at Chatham Memorial Arena, the Flyers rebounded with a 6-3 victory over the Komoka Kings. The win improved Leamington’s record to 6-1-0-0 while sending Komoka below the .500 mark to 2-3-1-0.
“They’ve got a pretty good team,” Flyers head coach Tony Piroski said of Komoka, playing its first season out of the Middlesex County community after relocating from Forest where they were the Lambton Shores Predators. “They’re much improved and they played hard. Their team has some depth and some quick, skilled forwards to look out for.”
The Kings struck first in the Thursday, Sept. 28 match on a Wed Dobbin goal against Noah Hedrick after about four-and-a-half minutes of action. The Flyers replied with a trio of goals before the opening period expired, starting with a tally by veteran captain Zach Guilbeault, assisted by Kenny Styles and Maddux Rychel. Cody Schneider put Leamington ahead six-and-a-half minutes later after being set up by Josh Pope-Ferguson and Parker Jacques.
To finish the period, Rychel sent the puck past Reagan Gies, with Guilbeault drawing the only assist. Later in the game, Rychel — with nine points in his first six games as a Flyer — was sidelined by a wrist injury. Further inspection will be necessary before determining how long the Tecumseh resident will have to sit out before returning to the team’s lineup.
Leamington outshot the visitors 15-6 in the opening frame, which transpired without penalties being assessed to either team.
A few mismanaged players allowed the Kings to bounce back into the game through the middle 20 minutes. For the second time since the previous Thursday’s 6-3 win over the London Nationals, the Flyers surrendered a shorthanded goal, this time to Komoka’s Brett Fisher. Less than three minutes later, Kyle Fisher completed the Kings’ rapid comeback to register a 3-3 stalemate going into the second intermission.
“We played well overall, but there were a few breakdowns that ended with the puck in our net,” Piroski said of the second period, where Komoka outshot his team 10-8. “We came out with guns blazing in the third.”
The Flyers indeed owned the final stanza, where they peppered Gies with 21 shots while Hedrick was forced to handle eight. Blake Blain netted his fourth of the season for the game winner after taking helpers from Dylan Weston and Griffin Robinson roughly four-and-a-half minutes after the period’s initial faceoff. Robinson chipped in with the first insurance goal about five minutes later, with assists credited to Bain and Bryce O’Brien. With 49 seconds left on the clock, Pope-Ferguson found the empty Kings net to wrap up the scoring, unassisted.
Leamington outshot Komoka 44-24 and was zero for two on the power play. The Flyers committed only one minor penalty, on offsetting call made late in the second period.
Piroski explained that while he is happy with his team’s overall start to the 2017-18 campaign, he and the rest of the team’s coaching staff isn’t content to ride out the remaining 43 games with the status quo.
“The 6-1 record is a little flattering,” he said. “We’re not playing poorly, but we have to get better in different areas. We’e been fortunate enough to have good goaltending to help us out and offensively we’re in good shape, but there are things to work on.”
On Saturday, the Flyers were back on the road for a match in St. Marys against the winless Lincolns. Despite the opposition’s last-place standing in the West, Piroski stressed that the Lincolns were not to be taken lightly.
“They’re a big, physical team, so we’ve got to be ready for a rough game,” he said, noting that he saw St. Marys in action during the season-starting Showcase Weekend. “They’ve lost a few late, so we’ll see what happens.”
What transpired was an 8-4 win for the Flyers, with Robinson leading the charge with four goals. Singles were provided by Dalton Langlois, Nathan Skulley, Jaydon Fetter and Cody Schneider.
The Flyers’ next home game will be played Thursday, Oct. 5 at 7:10 p.m. against the St. Thomas Stars before hitting the road Saturday, Oct. 7 for a 7:30 p.m. start against the Strathroy Rockets.