LEAMINGTON — The Leamington Flyers’ newest starting goalie started things off with a strong yet uneventful debut at Highbury Canco Arena.
Zach Borgiel of Fort Gratiot, Mich. was officially welcomed by his new team with a solid showing of support from his defensive cohorts en route to a 3-1 win over the St. Thomas Stars. Having played last season with the NAHL’s Brookings Blizzard, the fifth overall goalie selection of the 2016 OHL draft faced only three shots in the first period and five in the third to start his tenure in Leamington with a .947 save percentage.
The Flyers’ forwards dominated the first period, although the first 20 minutes ended with a modest one-goal lead for the home team. Leamington appeared to open the scoring less than four minutes into the game with an odd-man rush, but officials declared that the net had been knocked off its moorings before the puck crossed the line.
With just under four minutes to go, Preston Corp arrived at a rebound puck in the faceoff circle to the left of the net and after spinning 180 to face the net, snapped a low shot into the lower left side of the goal. Michael Andrews and Dylan Weston drew the assists.
In his first game as a Flyer, goalie Zach Borgiel had an uneventful first frame, having to stop only three shots while Kevin Linker faced 10 at the other end of the rink.
The St. Thomas attack was far more of a threat in the second, forcing the newcomer netminder to come up with some key saves to help preserve the lead. Jake Nimmo gave Leamington a 2-0 advantage after being set up by Griffin Robinson and Maddux Rychel, carrying the puck from the right side of the Stars’ net to the left and backhanding a shot past Linker to his right side.
The Stars got the goal back about two-and-a-half minutes later when Nicholas Grandy snapped a waist high shot just inside the left post with traffic between himself and the goal. The Flyers had opportunities to again increase the goal differential, but fired shots wide of the net and struggled to gain possession of rebounds.
Leamington’s defense tightened up again in the third, allowing only five shots — most of which the Stars were forced to take from unfavourable positions. Just beyond the period’s midway point, Robinson — hovering near the goal line to the left of the St. Thomas net — sent an outward pass to Nimmo. The Belle River native took advantage of a stretch of open space to approach the goal and fire a shot through an opening in its left side to notch his second of the evening and fourth of the season. Rychel drew the second assist.
“We’ve got good chemistry out there,” said Nimmo, who celebrated his 18th birthday the following day. “Each of us knows where the others are and when we get the chance, we crash the net or go for the shot.”
The Stars pulled Linker for the extra skater with just under three minutes to go, but couldn’t close the gap. Leamington outshot the visitors 25-19 and thwarted all three St. Thomas power plays. The Flyers played the entire 60 minutes without any man advantage opportunities.
“This is the way I like to see us play,” said Flyers head coach Cam Crowder. “I was getting tired of allowing three or four goals per game. It was a good win for us.”
The final score of a Saturday, Oct. 6 game for the Flyers in Strathroy ended in a 3-2 overtime final favouring the Rockets. Adam Jeffery and Robinson scored for the Flyers, who were outshot 47-41.