Three consecutive goals in a 2:23 span of the second period helped to lift the Neepawa Natives to a 6-4 win over the Dauphin Kings. The victory, Neepawa’s 20th of the year, ensured that Sunday nights final game of the regular season will decide whether the Natives or Swan Valley Stampeders make it to the playoffs.
As for the Dauphin game, it was a very chippy showdown, as both clubs were aggressive out on the ice. John McCammon opened up the scoring at 12:21 with a short-handed goal. Dauphin replied before the end of the first, however, to make it 1-1 after 20 minutes of action.
In the second, Dauphin took the lead when Keaton Leininger scored on what appeared to be a screen shot. That power-play goal was quickly followed up by three straight for the Natives. Josh Sielsky, Nolan Richards and Brad Marshall notched those goals respectively. There was also some after the play extracurriculars following the Richards goal, as Reigan Buchanan and Dauphin’s Austin Friesen dropped the gloves. Both received game misconducts.
In the final period, the Kings came out extra motivated creating several near scoring chances within the first 90 seconds. That effort ultimately paid off with another power-play goal, this time from Riese Gaber. That appeared to wake Neepawa up, as they started pushing back. That allowed them to quickly reclaim the two goal lead, off a Justin Metcalf goal. A little later in the period, Skyler Thorsteinson wired a low shot into the back of the net. That gave Neepawa a three goal cushion with just 3:20 remaining. Dauphin answer back with one more power-play goal late, but was unable to mount the comeback. At the end of regulation it was 6-4 for the Natives. Tyler Gutenberg collected the win with a 29 save night.
Neepawa’s win now sets up a win or go home scenario for Sunday, Mar. 5 at the Yellowhead Centre, when they host the Swan Valley Stampeders (20-33-6). Which ever team wins that game will go on to face the Steinbach Pistons in the first round of the MJHL playoffs. Start time for the Neepawa/Swan Valley showdown is set for 6:30 p.m.