NACI Tigers secure place in playoffs



Photo by Eoin Devereux. NACI goaltender Dez Ramsey slides across the crease during the 2nd period of the Tigers 3-1 victory over Crocus Plains on Wednesday, Feb. 1.

By Eoin Devereux

The Neepawa Press/Neepawa Banner

A pair of recent wins have assured the NACI Tigers a spot in the Westman High School Hockey League playoffs. The only question now is who will challenge them?

The Tigers played three games within the past seven days, first facing the Crocus Plains Plainmen on Wednesday, Feb. 1. A pair of late goals from forward Bryce Kusugak helped to propel the NACI Tigers to a 3-1 win. This victory improved NACI’s record to 10-6-4 and temporarily lifted them into fifth place in the Westman High School Hockey League standings. 

The game, played at the Yellowhead Centre, started slowly for both sides from an offensive perspective, as goaltenders Dez Ramsey and Dawson Green kept it scoreless in the first 20 minutes of play. It was more of the same into the second, until the 6:03 mark, as Tigers forward Brennan Wiebe found the back of the net on a power-play opportunity.

In the third, Crocus Plains pushed hard for an equalizer and that effort would pay off quickly. Plainsmen forward Hayden Gould charged towards the Neepawa net just 1:39 into the third and was able to sent a quick shot to tie the score at 1-1. Crocus Plains continued to push the pace but couldn’t solve Ramsey. As the period drew to a close, NACI was able to shift the momentum back in their favour. That pressure paid off with just 5:37 left in regulation, as Bryce Kusugak recovered a rebound in front of the Crocus Plains’ net and scored to make it 2-1. Crocus Plains tried to tie things up, but a late penalty hampered that effort for them. Kusugak tallied a second goal during the power-play, with a shot off of the Plainsmen goalies’ glove side. That ensured the victory for NACI.

On Friday, Feb. 3, the Tigers returned to the ice, this time to face a more difficult challenge in the form of the Killarney Raiders (17-2-0). On this night, a four goal first period would catapult the Raiders towards a comfortable 9-4 win. Ben Rainka, Tysne Stanski, Bryan Todoruk and Tyler Gibson scored for NACI in the loss.

With no time to wallow on the Killarney game, NACI bounced back in an impressive fashion, with a 9-1 decision over the Souris/Reston Tigers on Saturday, Feb. 4. Scoring details on this matchup, held in Reston, where not available before the Press publication deadline.

With the win, NACI was able to improve their regular season record to 11-7-4, good enough for 26 points. Those results had them tied with the Virden Golden Bears and Major Pratt Trojans for fifth place in the WHSHL standings. As of Monday, Feb. 6, however, Major Pratt did have two games in hand on the schedule on both NACI and Virden. The final two games of the regular season for the Tigers are this weekend. First, they’ll travel to Boissevain on Friday, Feb. 10 to face the Broncos (13-5-0). The next night, they’ll host the Virden Golden Bears (12-8-0) in a game that could decide playoff positioning for both teams. The start time for that matchup at the Yellowhead Centre is set for 7:15 p.m.