Rough weekend for Neepawa Natives



By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

This past weekend was an opportunity for the Neepawa Natives to make up some ground on two teams they’re chasing in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) standings, the Virden Oil Capitals and Portage Terriers. A pair of victories over those clubs could have leapfrogged Neepawa into fifth place and within striking distance of home ice advantage for the playoffs. But, instead of securing their playoff position, the Natives were beaten in a pair of game at home, dropping them into eight place, with a 14-14-2 record. It has also left them on the edge of the playoff picture, with a recently resurgent Swan Valley Stampeders slowly closing the gap.

Oil Caps dominate in Neepawa

Just 31 seconds into the opening period on Friday, Dec. 1, Ashton Anderson scored his 17th goal of the season, giving the Neepawa Natives a quick 1-0 lead over the Virden Oil Capitals. Unfortunately, that would prove to be the pinnacle of the night for the Natives, as the Oil Caps dominated the rest of the game, on the way to an 8-3 win.

Virden exploded for six goals in the second period, including four consecutive in the opening 5:59 of the middle frame. Ben Dalke scored a pair, while Kyle Salaway and Tristen Cross added singles. Natives’ forward Justin Metcalf interrupted the onslaught with a goal at 9:48 of the second, Virden would simply reply with two more before the end of the middle frame. Those goals from Rylee Zimmer and Jeran Knorr made it 6-1 after 40 minutes of play.

The offensive outpouring continued in the third, as Zimmer added his second of the night at the 2:33 mark. Dylan Thiessen also scored for Virden under two minutes later, to make it 8-2. 

While Neepawa’s Zach Johnson scored one more goal near the midway point of the third, but Virden was simply too much to handle on the night, cruising to the 8-3 win. Goaltender Riley McVeigh picked up the win in net for Virden, helping the Oil Caps improve to 17-9-0 on the season. As for Neepawa, newcomer Spencer Eschyschyn and Jake MacLennan combined for the defeat between the pipes for the Natives, as the team’s regular season record dropped to 14-13-2. Neepawa’s power-play went 0-for-5 over the course of the game, while Virden was 2-for-7, with the man advantage. 

Natives lose to Terriers

The march to the penalty box proved to be too much for the Neepawa Natives to overcome, as they were bested by the Portage Terriers 3-2, on Sunday, Dec. 3. The Natives were tagged for seven penalties for an accumulated 39 minutes. Though the Natives were able to keep Portage from scoring any goals with the man advantage, the penalties still stymied Neepawa’s pursuit of a victory.

The game was a very close battle between these two teams. Kain Stevenson scored for the Terriers in the first period, providing a 1-0 lead. After no goals were registered in the second, Portage started quickly in the third, when Troy Williams scored just 59 seconds into the period. Neepawa would then take advantage of a power-play of their own, when Portage’s Turner Santin was given a five minute major and game misconduct for kneeing. Neepawa scored two on the extended power-play to tie the game at 2-2. Justin Metcalf and Zach Johnson notched those goals for the Natives. 

Portage would regain their lead late in the game, when Mackenzie Dwyer put away his seventh goal and 26 point of the season. Late game penalties handcuffed Neepawa’s chances for a late game comeback, as they fell 3-2.  This latest defeat, along with recent wins from Selkirk and Winnipeg, has dropped Neepawa from sixth to eight in the standings, with a 14-14-2 record