The Neepawa Natives have headed into the Christmas hiatus with a little bit of momentum, picking up three of a possible four points in their last two regular season games. The MJHL club first collected a lone point on Friday, Dec. 16, in 5-4 shootout loss to the Selkirk Steelers at the Yellowhead Centre. They’d follow that up on Saturday, Dec. 17 with a 4-3 victory in Waywayseecappo against the Wolverines.
Though there is likely a little bit of disappointment in not picking up the victory versus the Steelers in their final home game before Christmas, Neepawa should still take great solace in the fact they battled back for the single point. Early on, Selkirk completely stymied Neepawa’s efforts with its physical style of play. That, along with constant pressure from the Steelers’ top forwards provided the visitors with a 4-1 leads the second period drew to a close. To that point, Ashton Anderson had mustered the only offensive spark for the Natives, scoring late in the first period. In the final 2:44 of the middle frame, however, Neepawa snapped back into contention, as Zach Johnson and Justin Metcalf scored, making it 4-3 heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation. Johnson’s goal came off a breakaway, while Metcalf took advantage of a great give and go with Anderson, to make it a one goal deficit.
The third period would prove to be a great back and forth between the two teams, with neither really able to find that one opportunity to turn everything to their favour. It would be a late game cross checking penalty against Selkirk that would turn out to be the opening Neepawa needed. During the man advantage, Skyler Thorsteinson would put away the equalizer and send the game into overtime.
In overtime, Selkirk nearly picked up the extra point on two separate occasions. First, they took advantage of a two-on-none breakaway on Natives goaltender Evan Robert, but found themselves shutdown by on the play. Just over a minute later, the Steelers almost ended it again, but were hampered by the tremendous effort of Robert once more. After the five minutes of OT solved nothing, both teams had to head into a shootout. Jake Dudar was the only player for both clubs that was able to slip a shot into the back of the net, which provided Selkirk with the hard fought 5-4 win. Both Robert and Selkirk’s Hayden Dola had busy nights between the pipes, as both goaltenders registered 48 saves apiece.
The final game before the Christmas break for Neepawa would be in Waywayseecappo against the Wolverines. A two goal night from Josh Sielsky would lift the Natives to the 4-3 win in this contest. Ashton Anderson and Reigan Buchanan picked up the other goals for Neepawa, while Tyler Gutenberg collected the win in net. With the win, Neepawa improved its record to 9-22-2 on the season. The team’s final game of 2016 will be on Friday, Dec. 30, when they host the Swan Valley Stampeders at the Yellowhead Centre.