The Neepawa Natives closed out a gruelling section of their regular season schedule on Sunday, Oct. 9, with a solid 2-0 victory over the Waywayseecappo Wolverines. The game was Neepawa’s fourth in five day and came less than 24 hours after a trip to Steinbach to take on the unbeaten Pistons. Sunday night’s tilt was also the first of those four contests to be played at home, after the team accumulated a combined 1102 kilometres on the bus this week (282 km to & from Dauphin, 302 km to & from Virden and 518 km to & from Steinbach)
Considering the amount of wear and tear on the players from the week that was, it could have been very easy for Neepawa to get outpaced by a fresher Wolverines squad. Instead, the Natives were able to keep pace with the very physical opposition.
The game was not a perfect one for the home side however, as the Natives found themselves in penalty trouble in the second period. On two different occasions in the middle frame, Neepawa had to kill off multiple penalties at once. Head coach Dustin Howden said despite those penalty issues, the team did not buckle.
“Our penalty kill came through for us [on Sunday night]. Some of those penalties, I think were a case of tired legs from the end of an extended run of games. Fortunately, it didn’t cost us anything on the scoreboard. On top of that, our first goal was on a power-play, so both sides came up big for us,” stated Howden.
The power-play marker Howden referred to was the first goal of the night, as Skyler Thorsteinson earned his first of the season at 7:42 of the third period. Jordan Martin and Ashton Anderson received assists on that goal. About seven minutes later, Matthew Millan added to the Neepawa lead, notching his first goal and second point of the year. Once again, it was Anderson and Martin garnering assists on the opportunity.
From there, Neepawa was able to secure the victory, thanks to the effort of goaltender Tyler Gutenberg, who made 34 saves between the pipes for the shutout victory. After the game, Gutenberg commended the team in front of him, for their strong defensive effort and helping him out in front of the net. He added that the team battle hard for the win.
Howden concluded that the coaching staff is happy with how the players were able to deal with the hectic schedule and that it’s something that they can build off of.
“2-2 [record]. We’ll take that. It could have been a different outlook in the Virden game as well, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. But anytime you can come out of a stretch like this at 2-2 and still relatively healthy, you’ll take that,” noted Howden.
Neepawa now gets to rest up for its next big challenge, as they’ll face the Winkler Flyers on Friday, Oct. 14, at the Yellowhead Centre. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 pm.