The Senior Flyers played their first ‘AAA’ game of the season on Saturday night, and came up short in Stony Plain. But despite losing 7-4, the Flyers played well, and can look ahead with optimism.
It was another slow start for the Flyers, with the Eagles scoring just 30 seconds in, when Jeff Drummond took a pass from Doug Auchenberg and tapped it past Troy Hunt. The Flyers got onto the scoreboard eight minutes in, when Darren Peebles took a pass from Donny Lloyd and fired it under Jason Fricker. Peebles was playing his first game since the spring of 2008, with he and Nathan Waberski both rejoining the team after a one-year absence. Lloyd was playing his first game as a Flyer, after playing with the Spirit River Rangers the past two seasons. His assist on Peebles’ goal was just the start of a big night.
Spirit River climbed back into the lead less than a minute later, when Brandt Middleton scored another tap-in in. Mike Shipton rounded out the first period scoring summary, when he fired a wrister past Fricker and into the back of the net, for a powerplay goal.
It was the Flyers who opened the second period scoring, when Ryan Manitowich scored his first as a Flyer. But after Manitowich’s goal, the Eagles found some holes in the Flyers zone, and quickly turned the tide. Blair Zahara tied the game when he came down the left wing and fired a snap-shot through Troy Hunt’s legs. A minute later, Dan Leckelt put the Eagles back in the lead, when his shot trickled over Hunt’s arm and in. Blair Zahara’s second of the period put Stony Plain up by two.
The Flyers hadn’t played a bad second period, but made a few mistakes, and paid the price. “I don’t think the breakdowns were in our own zone. I think they were on the turnovers when we were in the offensive zone” said Coach Adam Brash after the game. “I’ve always felt that defence starts in the offensive zone … and if you think that way then you’ll be structurally set up when you get back in the defensive zone.” Brash said his team’s breakdowns resulted from not having a third player high in the offensive zone, to match a Stony Plain system which often left forwards in the neutral zone. He says he saw defencemen ‘not having their heads on swivels’, and his team gave up too many odd-man rushes, but also admits those mistakes can be a product of rust.
Leading by three, Stony Plain did an effective job of killing the clock in the third period. The Eagles played a puck-possession game even on the powerplay, and successfully negated any chances the Flyers had to climb back into the game. The third period saw a couple of fights – Ashley Langdon fought Kyle Rossiter, and Matt Shuya fought Pat Glenday.
The teams also traded goals late in the period, with Dough Auchenberg scoring for the Eagles, and Donny Lloyd adding another powerplay goal for the Flyers.
Lloyd’s goal gave him a four point night, after registering assists on all three previous goals. Coach Adam Brash says the numbers speak for themselves, but he fed a ton of ice time Lloyd’s way. “I’ve always liked that kid” Brash said afterwards. “I’ve been watching him for two years and always wanted him to be on my hockey club. “He’s going to be huge once he gets going.”
Lloyd admitted his fatigue after the game, but says that’s to be expected early on in the season and playing with a new team. He says unfamiliarity between players also helped contribute to some of the mistakes his team. As for his four point night, he laughed that fans can’t expect that every night. “It’s always a bonus when you can add some points,” he said, “whatever helps the team win.”
Despite losing by three goals, the coach Adam Brash wasn’t too disappointed with his team’s performance. “We did a lot of really good things tonight too” said Brash, pointing to the powerplay, and puck support in the defensive zone. Brash was pleased with his team’s breakout, and very happy with the way his forwards helped out their defencemen. “There a lot of good things tonight” Brash said, adding simply, “the four breakdowns cost us the game.”
Brash was happy with the way all of his new recruits played, with Jerry Cunningham, Ryan Manitowich, and Donny Lloyd all making their Flyers debuts. The Flyers did have several healthy scratches in Stony Plain, and do expect to ice a different team on Sunday.
Click here to listen to a highlights package from Saturday’s game. [asset|aid=2042|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=e0b4bf1a88b2469521a50dd057c39280-Flyers lose 7-4 to the Stony Plain Eagles_2_Pub.mp3]
The Flyers continue their ‘AAA’ road trip on Sunday, when they face the Lloydminster Border Kings in Onion Lake, Sk. The puck drops at 3pm MST. MooseFM’s broadcast kicks off with the pregame show at 1:45 PST.