Falcons dominate Canucks
Sarnia’s loss was St. Catharines’ gain.
Michigan native Logan O’Flanagan was being courted by the Sarnia Legionnaires of the Western Conference of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League this summer, but the rugged winger had some doubts about crossing back and forth across the border from his home in Port Huron due to the COVID pandemic.
Enter St. Catharines Falcons goaltender and fellow Michigan native Andrew MacLean who proposed O’Flanagan try out in St. Catharines.
“I needed somewhere to play,” O’Flanagan said. “I played with Andrew when I was younger and I’m playing with him again now.
“It’s been great.”
O’Flanagan collected his 11th goal of the season Friday as the Falcons blanked the Niagara Falls Canucks 6-0 at Jack Gatecliff Arena.
The 19-year-old O’Flanagan has been a solid contributor with 20 points in 33 games while providing depth up front.
“It was definitely a bit of a change. I’d never really played in Canada before for a long, extended period of time but the team has supported me in switching over,” he said. “I feel great playing for these guys. If I have a bad game they are always there to pick me up, coaching staff the same.”
Falcons coach Tyler Bielby had no idea about O’Flanagan until he showed up at camp.
“I don’t know much about Michigan high school hockey so I didn’t know much about what we were getting or the level of player we were getting but he competes and is a great teammate.
“I just challenge him to be consistent and play heavy. He’s a big, strong guy who can skate and has a great shot. We just need him to be physical and be hard to play against.”
O’Flanagan has been skating recently on an effective unit with James Eng and Nate Shirton.
“I think the first period was a great period for us and O’Flanagan and his line mates were a big part of that,” Bielby said. “They just imposed their will and that breaks teams down. Flanny played a big part in that and got a big goal and helped us get a big lead.”
The Falcons raced out to a 4-0 lead, dominating the opening 20 minutes.
“We’ve been waiting for a first period we would be extremely happy about and that hasn’t happened all year,” Bielby said. “We’ve been happy with periods but not really where we just kept coming and coming.
“Our first was as good as it’s been all year. We have to challenge them to have starts like that because you can see what happens when you get off your feet like that.”
With the outcome no longer in doubt, the second half of the game was not much more than shinny.
“We were trying to keep our head up and play the game the right way,” Bielby said. “It’s a bit of human nature when you get up early you try and do too much or make that great play but we really challenged them to stick to the process because every time we are get on the ice now it’s about preparing for the playoffs.”
The Falcons improved to 34-8-1-1 and lead the Caledonia Corvairs by six points for second place with four games remaining in the regular season.
The Canucks fell to 5-36-3-1.
The game marked the final appearance of the Canucks in regular season action at the former Garden City Arena, which will be permanently closed following the season.
Bielby has fond memories of some classic battles between the Canucks and Falcons.
“I look back in the 90’s with guys like Tony Pappas and those big, strong guys,” Bielby said. “Niagara Falls always had really tough teams and they came to play and made you earn everything you got.
“We talked about the tradition before the game. There have been so many hockey games played in here between these teams, usually fighting for a league championship. We respect the tradition and we respect the opponent across from us tonight.”
Thanks to Falcons stats guru Sean Burrows, here are some interesting highlights of the Canucks at the Falcons over the years:
• 147 games were played between the two franchises, with the Falcons holding a slight edge at 72-68-7.
•Three Niagara Falls based teams played at The Jack— The Canucks, Niagara Falls Thunder B’s and Niagara Falls Devils.
•In each of the three periods, the Falcons always outscored Niagara Falls. In overtime, not so much. Niagara Falls outscord the Falcons 7-4.
•89,818 fans came to The Jack when Niagara Falls was in town (an average of 615 per game). The largest attendance for a game was Jan. 27. 2006 when 2,035 fans showed up.
•On Feb. 19, 1993, Todd Zavitz became the Falcons all-time point leader in a 10-7 wins versus the Niagara Falls Devils.
•On Oct. 14, 1998, 383 penalty minutes were doled out, making it the most penalty minutes handed out in one game at The Jack.
Falcon facts: Owen Simpson, Matthew Stranges and Josh Reilly did not dress for the Falcons . . . Sam Ostafin, Riley Benvenuto and Justin Vermeulen were scratched for the Canucks . . . St. Catharines defenceman Jonah Boria was honoured before the game as the defensive player of the month for February. He helped the Falcons to a league-best for the fewest goals allowed while also netting three goals and five assists in nine games . . . MacLean’s shutout was his 10th of the season. He set the league record of nine last week.
St. Catharines forward Logan O’Flanagan.
Falcons 6 Canucks 0
St. Catharines Falcons: Blake Yetman (17); Jonah Boria (12); Logan O’Flanagan (11); Mason Howard (9); Jagger North (9); Mitchell Armstrong (3).
Niagara Falls Canucks: No scoring.
Game stats: Shots on goal: By St. Catharines on Andrew MacLean (22), by Niagara Falls on Riley George (30); Power plays: St. Catharines 1/4, Niagara Falls 0/3; Penalty minutes: St. Catharines 22, Niagara Falls 24.
Up next: The Falcons visit the Canucks Sunday at 3 p.m.
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