A 27-save-performance from goaltender Tyler Gutenberg secured the Neepawa Natives a very important 3-0 victory over the Dauphin Kings on Friday, Jan. 13. The 20-year-old from Brandon put in an exceptional effort throughout the night to push Neepawa to their 11th win of the season. Reigan Buchanan of McCreary also helped the case with a pair of goals in the first period. Nolan Richard scored the third goal of the night for the Natives in the third period.
After the game, Gutenberg noted that while he was pleased with his night between the pipes, it wasn’t a solo effort.
“Throughout the game, I wasn’t forcing anything. On top of that, the guys in front of me played well. They were clearing the space in the front of the net, allowing me a clear view of the shooters. That made it easy, keeping shots to the outside. There weren’t many tricky shots I had to deal with. This was a big win and it keeps us in the playoff hunt.
Indeed, this victory was a big one in the chase for the eighth and final playoff spot, as it allowed Neepawa to pass Dauphin in the standings and close in on the Swan Valley Stampeders. In the last 10 games, the Natives accumulated a 4-1-5 record. Head coach Dustin Howden said these positive results are happening at just the right time.
“With each game and each result, [the players] are building confidence. Several of those overtime and shootout losses have been against some of the toughest teams in the league, It just goes to show what we as a coaching staff have been telling them all year. That they’re able to skate with any team in this league,” said Howden.
Neepawa hoped to keep its momentum going with a game in Selkirk on Sunday, Jan.15 against the Steelers. Early on in the first however, it appeared as though Selkirk would lock up the win quickly by scoring the first three goals of the game. Jordan Martin replied with one goal for Neepawa late in the first to make it 3-1 after the first period.
In the second, Selkirk continued to push the pace, creating several scoring chances. Tyler Gutenberg, however, kept them at bay. That stability between the pipes allowed Neepawa to slowly climb back into the game, first with a Riley Vautour goal in the second. Then with 5:26 gone in the third, Justin Metcalf tallied the game tying goal. The game would ultimately shift into a shootout, where the Steelers (29-11-3) were able to secure the extra point and the win. Despite the loss, Neepawa (11-22-5) still came away with a much needed point in the standings, allowing them to stay within striking distance of Swan Valley (14-23-3) in the standings.