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Natives focused on exhibition schedule

Original publication date – Friday, September 11th in the Neepawa Banner. 

The remaining players vying for a spot on the Neepawa Natives’ roster have a chance to show off their skill set in a whole different way, as the exhibition schedule has begun.  

The Manitoba Junior Hockey League club played its first pre-season game on Wednesday, Sept 9th at the Yellowhead Centre against the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. There are five additional games on the schedule before the start of the regular season

Natives head coach Jim Fuyarchuk said these match-ups serve as a great warmup for the returning players to get into game shape, as well as a last chance for several prospects to make their mark and secure a roster spot. 

“Training camp had a very good energy for us this year, but I expect [the remaining players] will kick it up a notch during the exhibition schedule. When you start to get into games against players on other teams that are in the same position as you, in that they’re fighting for a roster spot and looking to stand out from the crowd, the intensity level gets ratcheted up. Basically, you have no friends on the other team. You’re battling for a job and at this point, you just have to go for it,” said Fuyarchuk.

General manager Myles Cathcart added that these games will give the younger players an opportunity to show what they have to offer in a game situation. Cathcart noted that the pace of an exhibition match is much different from what is seen in a practice or even a scrimmage.

“You get to play against a different opponent [in exhibition], so it’s a new look there. As the exhibition season continues, the intensity will pick up as well, as we approach the final roster cuts. The players know that there are a few more decisions to be made, a few more cuts to get to the regular season roster,” said Cathcart. “Opponents such as Wayway, Dauphin and Winker will challenge our players in a whole different way. It’ll be up to [the players] to step up their game.” 

There are currently 26 players still vying for a position on the club. The final cuts to the squad will be made before the first game of the regular season on Friday, Sept. 25 in Dauphin against the Kings. As for the home opener, the Neepawa Natives will be  at the Yellowhead Centre on the following night, Saturday, Sept. 26 against the Dauphin Kings.