While the Neepawa Natives picked up a pair of home wins at the Yellowhead Centre over the weekend, the manner in which they achieved those victories was decidedly different from game to game. First, the team collected a hard fought 5-4 shootout victory against the Selkirk Steelers on Friday, Nov. 17. The next night was not quite as dramatic, as the Natives dominated the Dauphin Kings, on the way to an 8-2 win.
In the Selkirk showdown, the Natives started off quickly with a pair of goals in the first period. Jesse Gibbons opened the scoring near the mid-point of the period, when he earned his first goal in the MJHL. Ryan Heino and Austin Friesen assisted on the effort, to make it 1-0 Neepawa. Then, with just 12 seconds remaining in the period the Natives doubled their lead, off of a Noah Carson shot. Justin Metcalf and Jordan Martin registered helpers on that effort.
In the second period, however, the figurative wheels seemed to momentarily fall off the bus for the Neepawa Natives, as Selkirk scored four unanswered goals. That onslaught appeared to leave Neepawa reeling, heading into the third period.
Fortunately for the Natives’ fans, the players got their heads back in the game and came through with an impressive come-from-behind effort. Zak Smith started the comeback, with a goal just 3:22 into the third. Josh Blondeau and Breaden Binda were credited with assists. Then, with just 3:28 left in regulation, Benoit Mowbray tied things up, with his first goal of the season. Binda and Friesen assisted on Mowbray’s marker. Despite a late push from Selkirk to retake the lead, the Natives were able to send the game into overtime.
The five minute overtime session provided a few great chances for both clubs, but goaltenders Jake MacLennan of Neepawa and Hayden Dola, from Selkirk, kept the puck out of the back of the net. After the OT session concluded, the game headed to a shootout.
Selkirk’s Carter Barley would be the first to score during the shootout, but Neepawa quickly replied with one of its own, off the stick of Zach Johnson. The next shot from the Steelers was stopped by MacLennan, while Brad Marshall would get one past Dola, giving the Natives the advantage. With the game on the line, MacLennan was able to stop the effort of Nico Labossiere, and claim the win for Neepawa, by a 5-4 margin.
After the game, Natives head coach Dustin Howden said that while the second period could have been a bit better, he was still pleased with the team’s effort in the third, allowing them to come from behind against a tough Steelers team. He added that this is the type of win that makes all the difference, come the end of the regular season.
The next night, Neepawa returned to the ice to face the Dauphin Kings. This game was not quite as intense as the one versus Selkirk, as the Natives cruised to an 8-2 win.
In the first period, it proved to be a very even contest with Dauphin outshooting Neepawa, but the Natives collecting the only goal. It would be Brad Marshall scoring on a power-play chance.
For the second period, Neepawa exploded for four straight goals, as Ashton Anderson, Benoit Mowbray, Justin Metcalf and Breaden Binda all added to the Natives lead. Anderson’s goal was with the man advantage, while the others were even strength. Dauphin would reply with a goal of its own before the end of the period, making the score 5-1.
The final 20 minutes of regulation would see Neepawa add three more goals, from Jesse Gibbons, Zak Smith and Mackenzie Belinski, respectively. Dauphin scored a second goal before the end of regulation, making the final score 8-2.
With these two wins over the weekend, Neepawa has improved their overall record to 13-10-2 on the season. The Natives will not have much time to revel in their recent winning streak, as they face the Swan Valley Stampeders on Wednesday, Nov. 22. After the Swan Valley contest, Neepawa have games on Nov. 24 and 25 against the Winkler Flyers and Selkirk Steelers. The game versus the Flyers will be played in Neepawa, at the Yellowhead Centre, while the showdown with the Steelers will be in Selkirk.