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Senior Flyers take regular-season opener

Three powerplay goals, hat-trick by Winkel, lead to 8-6 outcome over Spirit River Rangers
The Fort St. John Flyers opened the 2022-23 regular season with a victory, 8-6 over Spirit River Saturday night.

It was a barn-burner in Spirit River Saturday night – 14 goals between the Fort St. John Flyers and the host Rangers, but it would be the Flyers who would come out on top 8-6.

“Our team played well, but I'm not going to lie, Spirit River were a bunch of meatheads,” said coach Andrew Leriger, in describing the Rangers' play in the game, comparing it to 1990's hockey.

“I was really proud of the way our guys handled themselves and they easily could have folded their tents and withered away but they stuck to it, played our game plan and outsmarted Spirit River.”

Newcomer Jared Winkel netted a hat-trick in the contest.

“He's a huge addition to our team. It was his first game that he's played with us. I mean, he's a little out of game shape but you really couldn't tell,” added Leriger.

Winkel played on a line with Adam Horst and Cayle Bell.

“It felt pretty good. It was nice to get in the first game, get the nerves off, and get to play with the big boys and the older men,” said the 22-year-old former Husky.

Winkel, though, was modest about his three-goal performance.

“It wasn't anything too special. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Potted one home, potted another one, and potted another one.”

“The guys are a little stronger and smarter [than in the NWJHL],” added Winkel, when asked to compare the two leagues.

“But, obviously foot speed is not quite there, but people think the game through a lot more physically. It's a lot different. You have to take different angles. You gotta block passing lanes instead of, maybe, getting low and fore-checking, trying to get the turnover.”

Besides Winkel, Nolan Lagace, Cooper Willms, Alex Nimmo, Adam Horst, and Cayle Bell added goals on the score sheet in a game that stayed close throughout, tied 1-1 through 20 minutes and 4-4 after 40.

The Rangers led the match in shots 39-34.

Three of the eight Fort St. John goals were with the man-advantage.

The Flyers return to game action Friday night with a road tilt in Manning.

Their home opener is set for Saturday, 8:30 p.m. against the Dawson Creek Canucks at the North Peace Arena.

Around the league, there were five games on opening weekend of the regular season.

The Flyers, Canucks, Falher Pirates, and Valleyview Jets are all 1-0.

The Canucks dropped Grande Praire 7-2, the Pirates blanked Grimshaw 6-0, and the Jets edged out the Manning Comets 4-3, but needed overtime to do it.

The Comets have one win (5-2 Friday night over Grimshaw) and the overtime loss.

The Rangers are 0-1.

The Grimshaw Huskies are winless in their first two.

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