After dropping game one of the NPHL finals, the Senior Flyers bounced back with a much better effort in game two.
On his first shift of the game, Arlo Hadland and Dustin Kersey both chipped passes ahead, to Adam Loncan, who streaked down the right hand side, and roofed a backhander over a stunned David Larson to kick-start the Flyers attack. 14 minutes in, Jeff Shipton poked a loose puck across the goal mouth to Adam Loncan, who reached around the net and tucked it in. Soon after Loncan’s second, Athletics goaltender went down quickly when Todd Alexander drove to the net. It didn’t seem like a major collision, but Larson stayed down, in clear discomfort.
After a lengthy chat with the trainer, he seemed shaken, but able to stay in the game. But, after another couple of plays, he was replaced by backup Lincoln Carriere, and did not return. The star netminder is diagnosed with a minor ankle injury, but is expected to be ready for game 4. With the exception of a couple of great chances in the fourth minute, one a Rod Bowers snap-shot all alone in front, but stopped by Troy Hunt, and another Kelly McLeod drive careening off the outside of the post, the Athletics didn’t really get too many chances in the first period.
Except when they were short-handed. After each Adam Loncan goal, the Flyers coughed up clear-cut breakaways while on the powerplay. One to Rod Bowers, one to Brennan Jones. And both ended up in the back of the net. And so, after the first, if was 2-2. 6 minutes into the second, Adam Loncan poked a loose puck past a defender, danced in on goal, and flipped a nifty forehand over Carriere, to again give the Flyers the lead. It was Loncan’s third of the night, and this time there would be no response from the Athletics. Ian Munro doubled the lead, when he took a pass from Dustin Kersey on a 2-on-1, and wrapped it around Carriere.
In the third, Grande Prairie got back within one, when Kelly McLeod got a stick on a scramble in the Flyers crease. But, Paul Wiens added an insurance marker, when he fired a backhander past Lincoln Carriere, to make it 5-3 Flyers. Late in the game, it looked like Jeff Fast had made it 6-3 when he converted another 2-on-1 with Kersey, but the referee blew off the goal, saying the whistle had gone before the puck had crossed the line. And so, the Flyers evened the series, and put in a rebound performance from their loss in game one.
They were the better team on the night, and played a game more fitting of their style. "Better" said Coach Adam Brash. "The effort was better, when we didn’t have the puck, we started taking the body more, and once people take the body out there, you creat turnovers, because you’re taking away that time and space, and all over a sudden you get some goals." But it also meant more offence. "And we worked harder" adding "when you work harder you get lucker." But, while they controlled the puck for the majority of the game, and cycled for entire shifts at a time, the Flyers still had a hard time penetrating the slot area. The Athletics play a passive defensive system that allows for puck possession, but slows up teams through the neutral zone and then keeps pressure to the outside. And, for Adam Brash, that’s a matter of cranking up the intensity one more notch, and passing the puck better. [asset|aid=1119|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=cbedffb2c5424787417876a861b07ddc-brash-iwantmore_1_Pub.mp3]
For Adam Loncan, it was a welcome breakout after struggling offensively as of late. Loncan posted three goals and an assist, and threatened the defence all night. [asset|aid=1120|format=mp3player|formatter=asset_bonus|title=cbedffb2c5424787417876a861b07ddc-loncan-better_1_Pub.mp3]
Troy Hunt also had a bounce back night, stopping 24 of 26 shots, and handling the puck well. The Flyers outshot the A’s 32-26, but again struggled on the powerplay, going 0 for 3, and conceding two short-handed goals, though they did hit the post quite a few times.
And so, Fort St. John has tied the series at one, with games three and four heading back to Grande Prairie, on Thursday and Saturday nights, at 7:30 PST. Thursday’s game will be braodcast on Moose FM, and Saturday’s game is still pending.