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Neepawa Natives showcase skills in Winnipeg

The Neepawa Natives racked up some miles on the team bus this week with games in Waywayseecappo and Winnipeg. The first contest would see a two goal effort from Justin Metcalf, including the overtime winner, power the Neepawa Natives to a 4-3 win over the Waywayseecappo Wolverines.

The game, played on Saturday, Dec. 10, started off strong for the Natives, as Metcalf and Jordan Martin each registered goals within the first 5:12 of the game. After that impressive start, it appeared as though it would be an easy night for Neepawa. Waywayseecappo, however, had no intention of giving away a game so quickly. The Wolverines replied with a pair of goals of their own before the end of the first, to make it a 2-2 game.

In the second, both teams added another goal to the stat sheet, with Peyton Malcolm notching his first of the season for Neepawa. The third period would see neither side successful in securing the potential game winning goal, so the contest would find itself going into overtime. With just 28 seconds gone in the OT session, Metcalf put away his second of the night to seal the victory for Neepawa. 

After picking up an important win, the Natives were hoping to keep that momentum going with a pair of games at the Old Dutch/MJHL Showcase in Winnipeg. Their first matchup would be against the always difficult OCN Blizzard.

The game opened up with an aggressive start by OCN, looking to intimidate with their size and physical style of play. Off of that effort, OCN’s George King was able to score a pair of goals near the mid-point of the opening period. That provided the Blizzard with a 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes.

In the second period, Neepawa snapped back into the game and started pushing back against OCN’s strategy. That provided several chances for the Natives, which they’d ultimately take advantage of with 8:34 left in the period. It was the combo of Justin Metcalf and Ashton Anderson who’d provide the spark on a two on one fast break into the OCN zone. Metcalf was able to put away the puck, after receiving an on point pass from Anderson. This was Metcalf’s 19th goal and 30th point of the season. For Anderson, it was his 18th assist of the MJHL season, to go along with his six goals. After cutting the deficit in half, Neepawa hoped to add an equalizer before the end of regulation, but couldn’t make up the ground, falling 2-1.

The following day, Neepawa returned to the ice to face a very familiar foe, the Virden Oil Capitals. The Showcase game was the sixth time these teams have faced one another already this season, with Virden winning four. Though these head-to-head results appear lopsided from a win perspective, these clubs have been evenly matched, with three of the five previous games decided by just a single goal. This latest battle would prove to be more of the same.

The first period was a close one, with both teams pressing for scoring opportunities, hoping to impress the large contingent of pro and college scouts in attendance at the MTS Iceplex. As they had in the previous games, it was the combo of Metcalf and Anderson who provided the scoring touch for the Natives, though this time, newcomer Nick Schultze’s name was also added to the stat-sheet. The Metcalf goal, his 20th of the regular season, provided Neepawa with the early lead.

In the second period, Virden came out energized and looking to tally a goal of their own. They would pepper 13 shots on goaltender Tyler Gutenberg over the course of that 20 minutes, eventually finding a way to get one past him on a power-play. With the score 1-1, fans were guaranteed another closely contest battle that’d likely come down to the final few minutes to decide a winner.

Neepawa reclaimed the lead quickly in the third, as Nolan Richards sent a shot into the back of the net just 17 seconds into the period. Reagan Buchanan assisted on the effort. Near the end of the period, Virden was able to take advantage of a turnover in the Neepawa end of the ice. Oil Caps rookie Tristen Cross would put away the tying goal from that chance with just 3:11 left in regulation. This contest would ultimately go into overtime. The OT session nearly ended with 1:19 left, but goaltender Tyler Gutenberg made a spectacular save to keep Neepawa in the hunt for the extra point in the standings. 

Once overtime solved nothing, this game would be decided in the shootout. After the first three attempts were unsuccessful for both sides, they went into extra shooters. After seven rounds and two goals apiece, it was finally Mack Hardy who scored the game winner for the Oil Capitals, making the final score 3-2. 

Though the loss was disappointing for the team, it did earn them a single point in the standings, moving them closer to Swan Valley and Dauphin in the playoff chase. The next game for the Natives is on Friday, Dec. 16 when they host the Selkirk Steelers. Game time at the Yellowhead Centre is set for 7:30 p.m.