The Neepawa Natives’ late season push to make the playoffs has suffered a setback, as the team dropped a pair of games over the weekend.
The team first faced the defending Manitoba Junior Hockey League champions, the Portage Terriers, on Friday, Jan. 15 in Neepawa. After a solid first period, in which neither team was able to find the back of the net, Portage amped up its effort in the second, scoring three quick goals. Shawn Bowles started it off on the power play, less than a minute into the middle frame. This was quickly followed by Ryan Sokoloski, who scored his eighth of the season, to make it 2-0 Portage just 2:02 into the second period. The onslaught continued as Bowles added his second goal of the period at 4:17, to create a three goal deficit for Neepawa to try and overcome. The Natives gained some momentum back before the end of the period as Justin Metcalf raced into the Portage zone and flipped a shot over the shoulder of Terriers goaltender Josh Bykowski for the first and only goal of the game for the home side.
In the third period, the Portage Terriers controlled the tempo of play throughout the final 20 minutes. Shawn Bowles would earn a hat trick just 36 seconds into the third, while Ryan Hendrix scored his tenth of the season at 13:57, to make the final score 5-1. Tyler Gutenberg made 39 saves for Neepawa to take the loss, while Bykowski made 26 stops for the win.
After that disappointing result, Neepawa returned to the ice on Sunday, Jan. 17 to take on the Selkirk Steelers. Selkirk forward Dallas Starodub scored twice in the first period, including a short-handed marker, to help the Steelers cruise to a 5-1 win.
Austin Hingtgen scored the only goal of the night for Neepawa at 13:46 into the second. Selkirk replied less than a minute later however, as Riley Derlago reclaimed the two-goal cushion, with his 19th goal of the season. Victor Knaub and Ezra Hall added singles for the Steelers in the third period to secure the win.