An inability to stay out of the penalty box, combined with a sluggish late game effort, ended up costing the Neepawa Natives in a 4-3 loss to the Virden Oil Capitals. After trailing 3-1 late in the second period, the Oil Caps scored the final three goals of the game, including a pair of those on the power-play. Virden ended the night 2-for-8 (25%) with the man advantage, while Neepawa went 1-for-4 (25%) with the power-play.
Virden opened up the scoring at 2:18 in the first period with a goal from Jesse Korytko assisted by Drayson Skulmoski and Jeran Knorr. The Natives tied the game up with a power-play marker from Ashton Anderson at 13:32. Jordan Martin and Riley Vautour assisted on the play. After 20 minutes of action, the game was tied at 1-1. Shots on goal for the period were in favour of the Oil Caps 16-12.
Neepawa was able to take over in the second, notching a pair of goals. The first was just 49 seconds into the period by Bradley Marshall. Martin and Styler Thorsteinson assisted on the effort. Just under 11 minutes later, Josh Blondeau put up past Oil Caps goaltender Marc Audet, to give Neepawa the 3-1 advantage. Martin added a third assist to his evening stats on that play, with Reigan Buchanan earning credit for the other helper on the play. Late in the second however, Virden was able to slip one behind starting goalie Jeremy Link, to cut the lead down to one, heading into the final frame. The shot advantage shifted to Neepawa’s favour, as it was 13-7 in favour of the Natives.
In the third it was all Capitals, as they scored their second power-play goal of the game with 4:18 gone in period. The game remained tied 3-3 with less than two minutes to go in the third when Virden captain Mack Hardy put away the eventual game-winner. The shots on goal in the final period were 13-8 for the Caps and the final total 36-33 in favour of Virden. After the game, Neepawa coach Dustin Howden said that he was not going to make any excuses for the team’s penalty issues
“No excuse, our guys simply need to be better. The message from the coaching staff at the start of the game was ‘When we stay out of the box, Virden has not scored an even strength goal on us in the last three games. So, if we play 60 minutes of even strength or possibly have us get going on the power-play, we will have a very good chance at winning. [But] we took frequent trips to the box and two power-play goals by Virden made all the difference,” stated Howden. “What we were called on as well, all stick infractions. Hooking, slashing, all soft penalties. It’s really disappointing right now.”
Howden said the team put in a great effort in the second period, but that they were not consistent with that effort over the entirety of the game. He noted that when that happens, the end result is a loss.
With this latest defeat, Neepawa’s record falls to 5-9-0 on the season. The team will now travel north for a pair of games this weekend. The first is on Friday, Oct. 28 against the OCN Blizzard. The next night, will be in Swan River to face the Swan Valley Stampeders.