Vikings tame Tigers in Slasher Showdown final



By Eoin Devereux

The Neepawa Banner/Neepawa Press

Some of rural Manitoba’s best high school hockey teams were in Neepawa this past weekend for the annual Slasher Showdown. The tournament began on Thursday, Oct. 27, with a pair of games, including the Neepawa Tigers taking on the NPC (Winkler) Nighthawks. 

The first period was a tight checking affair, as both teams were hoping to assert their dominance early. While some chippy play did result in a fair number of early trips to the penalty box for both clubs, it didn’t initially translate into many scoring opportunities. With 10:23 left in the first, the Nighthawks scored on even strength, as a partial screen in front of Tigers goaltender Brenden Funk resulted in the first goal of the evening.

NPC was unable to build off that goal however, as a trip to the box just a few minutes later put them at a disadvantage. The Tigers would jump at the opportunity, as Brennan Wiebe secured his first of the night at the 7:17 mark. This goal energized Neepawa for the rest of the period, which created another goal late in the first. This time, it was Ryan Kostenchuk who put away the puck, making it 2-1 Tigers after the first.

Over the next two periods, both sides traded chances, but it was only the Tigers who took advantage. Will Birnie scored late in the second, to make it 3-1, while Wiebe put away his second goal on an empty net, with just 37 seconds left in the game. Those goals combined with a solid effort by Funk between the pipes, ensured the Tigers left the ice with a 4-1 victory. The win moved Neepawa onto the championship bracket, while NPC shifted to the consolation. 


Neepawa Tigers 7-4 Pembina Tigers 

The Neepawa Tigers’ next challenger would be the Pembina Tigers, on Friday, Oct. 28. The teams faced off for a chance to play in the championship game on Saturday afternoon. Neepawa’s Ben Rainka opened up the scoring with 6:36 remaining in the opening period for his first of the tournament. Pembina, however, answered back with one of its own before the end of the first, to make it 1-1.

In the second period, Neepawa took over control and fired three straight goals into the Pembina net to secure a 4-1 advantage. Wiley Speiss, Tysne Stanski and Jesse Jones each picked up a goal for NACI. Pembina replied with one of its own with just 59 seconds left in the period, turning it into a 4-2 advantage for Neepawa shifting into the final 20 minutes of regulation.

As had happened in the second, NACI would put away three straight goals, providing them with a 7-2 cushion. Jones was first, collecting his second of the game at 17:47. Ben Rainka followed that up with his second of the game, just over three minutes later. Finally, Rylan Hollier potted one, to give Neepawa the five goal advantage. A pair of goals by Pembina would narrow the gap, but it was not enough, as Neepawa claimed the 7-4 win. With the victory, the NACI Tigers move on to the championship game on Saturday at the Yellowhead Centre, against the Vincent Massey Vikings


Vincent Massey Vikings 8-2 Neepawa Tigers

Heading into their showdown with Vincent Massey, the NACI Tigers found themselves dealing with a severe disadvantage. A half dozen players were not present for the final game because they were also members of the Tigers football team, who are in Dauphin for a Rural Manitoba Football League playoff game. Despite this roster detriment, Neepawa was still looking to put in as strong a performance as they could against a tough opponent.

In the first period, Neepawa was initially able to keep pace with the Vikings, but several early penalties ended up putting the Tigers at a disadvantage. Vincent Massey would score a pair of goals on the power-play and added a short handed marker to head into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead. Baren Mitchler scored the lone goal for NACI, on a power-play.

Ben Rainka notched a goal in the second period for the host club, but it was once again the Vikings who were able to push the tempo of play, putting away a pair of goals. That ensured they would head into the final 20 minutes of regulation with a 5-2 cushion.

The short bench finally caught up to Neepawa in the third, as Vincent Massey kept the majority of action in the Tigers’ end of the rink. That pressure eventually created three more goals for the visitors, culminating in an 8-2 final score. The Vikings were led by Justin Kelbert (two goals - two assists) and Patrick Kondratiew (two goals), while Josh Scott earned the winning goal for Vincent Massey.

Neepawa now shifts its attention to the Westman High School Hockey League regular season, as the Tigers will hit the ice on Wednesday, Nov. 2, versus Birtle. Start time at the Yellowhead Centre is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Then, on Friday, Nov. 4, NACI will travel to Minnedosa to meet up with the Chancellors. The Tigers close out the first week of the season with a trip to Deloraine on Sunday, Nov. 6

The puck trickles behind the goalie during the Friday afternoon game between NACI & Pembina. Though this shot didn't end up crossing the goal line, 7 others did for NACI, on the way to a 7-4 victory.