Kicking 2013 Off Right Published on 1/7/2013 12:55:00 PM
After finishing the first half of the 2012-2013 regular season by going 1-3-0 against four tough opponents at the Western States Shootout in Las Vegas, the Valencia Flyers were able to regroup during the short holiday break and prepare for a trip to Medford, Oregon, for three games against the always-tough Southern Oregon Spartans to open the new year.
With a new head coach and seven new faces in their lineup, the Spartans put up a tough fight with the help of their rowdy home crowd but the Flyers took two of the three games and moved into second place in the Pacific Division in the process.
After making the long trip through the night, the Flyers arrived in Medford on Friday morning and were able to get in a morning skate and familiarize themselves with a building they’ve never played in before prior to the opening game.
The team showed no signs of the dreaded “bus legs” that night, as Kevin Antipov notched his first hat-trick of the season and goaltender Stephen Palmer turned away 32 of the 34 shots he faced, in a 6-2 Flyers win.
The Flyers got off to a great start, scoring the first four goals of the game before the Spartans finally responded with two of their own.
Antipov notched his first of three with 9:55 left in the opening frame to open the scoring, before Ludovic Beaupre added one of his own late in the period to give the visitors a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play.
Just 7:19 into the middle period, Antipov had already added his second, while Hunter Jensen put home another to make it 4-0 Flyers.
The Spartans came on strong in the third and got within two on two goals from Kevin Edwards but the Flyers answered back with two of their own, as Antipov completed the hat-trick at 17:53 and rookie forward Kory Medeiros’ marker sealed the deal with 17 seconds left in regulation.
Forwards Austin Ehrlich and Jacob Larsson each collected two assists in the win, which was huge for the team’s confidence to start the second half of the season.
The next evening it was the Spartans who jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead, thanks to goals from Eligah Bordak and Sam Holeczy.With starting goaltender Stephen Palmer noticeably under the weather and normal backup Jesper Sannerborg not on the trip for the same reason, Jocelyn Langlois turned to rookie netminder Mark Becica to begin the second period.
11:03 into the period, Hunter Jensen scored to get the Flyers within one and just 1:44 later, Austin Ehrlich knotted the game at two.
Tommy Bennett gave the Spartans the lead back late in the period but Jensen answered with his second of the game for the Flyers just 1:26 later and the two teams headed to the locker rooms tied at three.
A red-hot Jensen gave the Flyers the lead for good 5:21 into the third, as the second-year forward notched the second Flyers hat-trick in as many nights, scoring for the third time off of an Ehrlich assist.
Lakoda Coleman’s goal put the game on ice with 1:07 left in regulation and the Flyers had taken the first two games of the series, despite being outshot in each.
Becica, who came on in relief of Palmer, played 40 minutes of hockey and picked up his first career junior hockey victory, stopping 14 of 15 in the win.
With the brooms out and ready to go, the Flyers came out flat in the series finale and were never really able to get anything going, as the Spartans salvaged a 3-0 victory from the weekend.
Becica started a game for the first time in his junior career and was hit with the loss, despite playing well, turning aside 31 of the 34 shots Southern Oregon threw at him.
Eligah Bordak picked up three points in the win for the Spartans, concluding a strong weekend for him.
Langlois and company surely would have liked to get six points out of the trip but Medford is known as one of the toughest places to play in all of junior hockey and the Flyers went in and took two.
The wins, combined with both Ontario and Fresno experiencing rough weekends, means the Flyers now sit alone in second place with 34 points, just six back of the Monsters.
After returning home early Monday morning, the Flyers will get a week of practice in before heading north again, this time for three divisional battles against a new-look Bay Area Seals squad, who have now won seven straight and nine of their last ten.
The Flyers will return home to Ice Station Valencia for what may be the biggest series of the season, when they host the Fresno Monsters January 25-27.
Tickets are still available, so come out and support the Flyers as they battle for the Pacific Division crown.